I love making Pita Bread fresh. I can’t decide if I like it better made in my cast iron pan on the stove top, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or… my outdoor grill; which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless how you make it — the key to making really good pita is keeping the dough wet, soft and spongy throughout the whole mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with wet and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have billowy pitas. Is that a word? “Billowy” ?
1 (.25 ounce) package rapid acting dry yeast
1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray
Place the yeast into the work bowl of your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will look wet like a slurry and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough with. You baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.
Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, now combine together at low speed until ingredients are mixed through really well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.
If dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed an additional 1/4 cup. Once dough is kneading without sticking to the bowl but still somewhat gooey. Begin to time your kneading about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed– until the dough springs back to the touch, and is very soft.
Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.
Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and turn upside down to insure the dough is completely covered in a light coating of the olive oil. This will prevent air from hardening with dough during the resting time.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume. Approximately 2 hours.
After dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and place onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1 inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into 8 pieces.
Form each piece into a smaller round ball carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, pulling down and tucking under to form a ball. Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.
Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little flour. Gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round disc 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6 inch pita. Continue until all the balls have been flattened into discs.
Rest an additional 5- 8 minutes. The continue to your preferred method of baking.
On the Stove:
Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.
Lay flattened discs into hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up and bottom is browning well, about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook 2 an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate causing the center to be hallow enough to fill.
Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the pan method because my pitas get a nice crispy coating on the outside while the inside remains soft and chewy.
In the Oven:
Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven and the stone to 500 F.
Place 2 pita discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Watch closely; they will bake quickly.
When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.
Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots and they are soft inside and out.
On the Grill:
When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.
Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few mists of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.
I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherent a nice smokey flavor. Mmmmm!
Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki.