on pita & filling our pockets
Making your own pocket bread may not be the thing for you. Do you have some leisure hours on one of your weekend days that you might like to spend playing with soft little pillows of dough? Do you find it a thing of pleasure to create something from scratch, something you can easily grab off the shelf, machine-made and already shrink-wrapped for you in plastic? Would it thrill you (just a tiny bit?) to watch flat pancakes fill like hot-air balloons in your oven while the aromas of a bakery fill your house? hmmm! – well –
Pita – from your own oven
makes 16 pita pockets
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 package)
2½ cups lukewarm water
¼ teaspoon sugar
Approximately 6 cups unbleached white bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1½ – 2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil
Into a large bowl, pour ½ cup of warm water and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Add the sugar. When the mixture begins to froth (proving that the yeast is still lively) stir in the remaining 2 cups of water. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously. (You may either do this by hand, or with a stand-mixer.) You’ve now made a “sponge”. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, or until it too froths.
Stir in the salt and 2 Tablespoons of the oil and mix together well. Gradually add the remaining flour – you may need less than the total amount specified – once you have a dough that holds together into a ball and isn’t sticking wetly to your hands, you’ve added enough flour.
(Because the flour hydrates gradually – and depends on ambient humidity amongst other things – if you add large amounts of flour all at once, you can overshoot the mark. All would not be lost…just add a bit more water – gradually – to find that happy balance.)
Knead well by hand in the bowl, or on a floured board, ten minutes or so; or in a stand mixer using the dough hook for maybe 7 minutes. You’re looking for a smooth, shiny and elastic dough that no longer sticks to your fingers when held for several seconds. Dust with a bit more flour occasionally if it proves too sticky. Form it into a ball.
Put the remaining tablespoon of oil into the bowl and roll the ball of dough around so as to grease it all over. (This prevents a crust from forming on it.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a comfy warm place free of drafts for about 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C), placing a large baking sheet in the hottest part. (Generally about ¼ of the way up from the bottom.) Allow it to preheat for 20 minutes.
Punch the dough down and then knead again for several minutes. Divide the dough in half. Divide the first half into 8 “equal” lumps and roll these into balls.
On a lightly floured surface, using either your hands or a rolling pin dusted with flour, flatten each lump into a “pancake” about 7 or 8 inches across and 1/8 to ¼-inch thick. Spread a kitchen towel on your counter and sprinkle it with flour. Dust each of the rounds with flour and arrange on the cloth, leaving an inch between them. Cover these with another flour-dusted cloth and allow them to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. (If your counter is particularly cold, you could leave them to rest them slightly longer.)
When the dough has risen to softness (20 minutes or so) place 2 rounds at a time onto the hot baking sheet sprinkled lightly with flour and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they puff up like balloons and are lightly browned on top. When they come out of the oven, still hot, wrap them together in a cloth to keep them soft and pliable. (Or you can place them in a plastic bag.) Continue baking the remaining pitas, and then repeat the process with the second half of the original dough.
to print the recipe, just click here.
Tomorrow’s post – a delicious and healthy hummus- & veggie-filled pocket, and a recipe for an ever-so-creamy, lemony tahini-infused hummus.
And Wednesday, a lick-your-chops spinach salad from Ottolenghi that uses leftover pita!
The recipe for pita comes from a wonderful cookbook by Claudia Roden, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. It’s a treasure trove!
What a Great Idea! I have been trying to bake more lately, so I can control what is in the baked goods I eat, especially if it is something you eat 3 to 4 times a week too. Happy Monday:)
I love that idea of baking your own when it’s something you’re consuming several times a week. These look sort of “miraculous” – how do they DO that?! – but they’re really not complicated or difficult at all. Just a bit time-consuming, like most breads. Glad you liked! 🙂 Thanks!
Love everything about this …. But yeast is a no go for me – I can feel the smell from this through my netbook screen. So beautiful and your photos so delicate.
Thank you Viveka! Such kind things you say! I know your aversion to yeast! 🙂 Too bad, so sad, these are very good! 🙂
I can smell, feel and taste how good they are through the screen – your photos are so brilliant too – doesn’t make it any easier. *smile
I’m going to have to get the resident bread baker (my husband) to try pitas again. These look great!
ahh! that’s the ticket! SUCH a good idea to have a resident bread baker in the house! 😉
Thumbs up to you for this post Spree! I’ve always loved pita and am always just disappointed with the store bought ones. These look just too wonderful! Thank you!
Thank YOU Shira! I share your sentiments about store-bought pita. Why they come out so TASTELESS is beyond me, but they do. Glad you liked these! 🙂 xx
These are beautiful. Heavenly is the word that immediately came to mind and mouth upon seeing your photos. No, making my own pita is probably not in my near future, but I’d love to munch up yours. They look so delicious.
Thank you, love! I must share, I must share. If only they didn’t get gobbled so quickly!
I’ve always been intrigued by the process of making pitas.. the way they separate and puff up is just wonderful! I’m so impressed that you’ve made these, spree.. no, on second thought, if anyone were to make pita pockets, it would be you:) I can’t wait to see the rest of your series! xx Smidge ps is GG home again? xx
Thank you Barb! I know – there’s something mysterious and wonderful about the willingness of a flat doughy disk to balloon itself up in the oven! I just love it! And yes, the GG is home again, home! ahhhhh! 😉 xx
Yes yes… I do want to make little flat pancakes and watch them fill like hot air balloons whilst the fragrance of bakery spreads throughout my house! I do not want to take a plastic package off the shelf, untwist the tie only to find scentless discs.
These are simply lovely.
Thank you Wendy, I so loved your comment! Thank you for the smile! x
Ooh, I love that Ottolebghi spinach salad and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food is our cookbook club book this month! (I can recommend the muhammara.) I’ve been wondering about making pita…you are helping me get brave enough. 🙂 These look so beautiful!
Emmy – You have a cookbook club?! Oh, I’d be in such trouble (with myself!) if I joined such a thing! But how lucky, you! So you have Jerusalem? Do you have his others? I’ll be posting the spinach salad today, but will definitely try the muhammara very very soon!
And do be brave! These are NOT at all difficult and I think you’ll really enjoy the process! And then, there’s the fresh, pliable, aromatic pita at the end! 🙂
I do have Jerusalem and I love it even more than Plenty, which is the other cookbook of his that I have. The muhammara recipe is actually from a different book but I’ll post it, it’s great. I just left this idea elsewhere, but you should visit the Tasting Jerusalem Facebook page and post some of your pics there–it’s like a cookbook fan club, from what I can tell. 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/TastingJerusalem?fref=ts
Oh my lord, those look perfect. I’ve been wanting to do pita for ages, now I feel like I can’t – I can’t top those!
Now you should feel like you SHOULD make them, Nick! Your reaction is the exact opposite of what I’d hoped for! Make yourself a batch of pita, friend, p.l.e.a.s.e!!! 🙂
Claudia Roden has such great books and you have worked wonders with your pretty and totally perfect pita pockets!
I love Ms. Roden’s writing, and her recipes are flawless! Thanks for the compliment Tanya! 🙂
Pita bread has always mystified me, Spree. I’m no great baker but I do bake a little bread. How dough used to make pita separates to form a pocket is beyond me. One of these days I have to give it a try and, when I do, I’ll know just where to come to get the recipe. Yours here look delicious and all are just begging to be stuffed. I an’t wait to see what you have planned for us.
You are always so kind in your comments John! 🙂 I know what you say – there’s a mysterious element to how a flat doughy disk would agree to be transformed into a hot air balloon when it hits the fire of your oven, but they do it every time! Bless their little doughy hearts! 🙂 And if *i* can make ravioli (and you’re about to hear about that), YOU can certainly make pita if you’ve a mind to!
Love baking my own bread – thanks for the motivation 🙂
Oh you’re so very welcome! I hope you’ll take the pita plunge — It’s pretty fun!