A good homemade pita bread recipe is like having a bar of gold in your cupboard, it’s precious.
Of all the cuisines in the world, you will see that it is bread that unites them all.
Every culture has a different form of bread, one that reflects the types of food they eat in their country.
I’m pretty much in love with all of them.
Store bought pita bread can be very good, but homemade is so much better.
Making pita bread is a wonderful, and magical experience everyone should try at least once.
Fresh bread is an extraordinary thing, and I’m always willing to give a loaf of bread a chance!
Simply known as khubz in the Arab world, literally meaning bread, pita is exactly that, bread.
It’s the bread that is used for everything in that part of the world, and why it’s just known as bread.
What is Pita Bread?
It all started about 14,500 years ago when the Natufian people were making flat bread in what is modern day Jordan.
These loaves were most likely the predecessors to modern pita bread with the pocket in the middle.
A pita is a round flatbread that is baked in high heat causing the bread to puff, creating a space in the middle.
Used extensively around the world, pita bread is especially widespread throughout the Middle East.
A staple food in many Arab countries, bought fresh directly from bakeries, and grocery stores.
This type of bread is used for dipping, and sandwich making, utilizing the natural pocket within.
The reason for the puff is because the moisture inside the dough, when placed in a super hot oven, turns to steam.
This action is what creates the famous hollow middle that expands, making the beautiful space for fillings.
The dough needs to be kneaded well to create a more elastic gluten, which in turn allows the dough to be more elastic.
It is also very important to make the loaves as round as possible as this helps the bread puff up making better pockets.
This is a very satisfying loaf to learn to make, and a good showstopper for invited friends.
Many people might think that pita is pita is pita, but that would be completely wrong!
There is a whole variety of pitas, they are made differently in different bakeries and by different people.
White flour pita, wheat flour pita, bigger thicker loaves, thinner loaves, small ones that are great to eat in the moment.
Everyone has a preference for whether they like the bigger loaves, the thinner loaves, the thicker loaves, small, big, chewy, crunchy, and the list goes on.
But there is not a ‘right’ kind of loaf, sort of like wine, if you like it, then it’s good!
How to Make Pita Bread
Making this bread is actually easier than you may think, and once you get the hang of it there is no going back.
There is nothing special about this bread recipe in itself, usually the simpler the better.
Most bread recipes for a dough, if following instructions on preparation, will provide you with pita bread.
Keep mixing, using your hands, until a dough emerges that is just slightly sticky.
Knead the dough, adding extra flour as required to keep it from sticking, or extra water to keep it moist.
Cover that with a kitchen towel, and place the bowl in a warm place in your kitchen, allowing it to rise.
Once the dough has doubled in size (roughly an hour), punch down and divide the dough into dough balls.
Allow the dough balls to rest for about ten minutes before you roll them flat using a rolling pin.
You can also try the traditional method and use your hands to flatten the dough.
Put a little olive oil on your hands to keep the dough from sticking.
Slowly pressing from the middle of the dough ball out as you turn the dough will gently produce a flat dough.
Usually you want your dough to be about an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick.
Place the pitas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and cover with a towel and let them sit for at least 15 minutes.
Bake your pita in a hot heated oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
Some people enjoy making their pitas on the stove top using a cast iron skillet, where you can really see them rise.
I like baking them on a pizza stone because the sudden hot surface helps the puffing process.
Baking steel will also provide good results when baking pita bread.
Why Make Pita?
One of the best reasons I can think of is because pita bread is actually so easy to make.
The pocket is, of course, really handy for those sandwiches requiring multiple ingredients.
You can also open a whole pita, fill it with your fillings, and then roll the whole pita making it easier to eat.
The pita becomes the flexible plate for the barbeque goers to eat from.
When grilling in the Middle East, pita is opened up and placed on the meat platter.
The cooked meats are then arranged over the bread so that it soaks up any juices coming from the meat.
This bread is then served alongside the food that is being prepared for an extra yummy side.
And then of course using pita bread is a wonderful way to eat with your hands.
Why Don’t all Pitas Have Pockets?
As I mentioned before the biggest reason for the pocket forming is the hot oven, which makes the moisture in the dough turn to steam.
Also, allowing the dough to rest before baking helps the process since the dough has risen a little.
Other non-pocket pita type breads will go quickly from being rolled, to being baked, or pressed right before they are baked.
Taboon bread is another type of bread from the Middle East that does not form a pocket.
This is because it is cooked over hot stones, and due to the uneven surface, a pocket does not form.
Tips for Making
- Having a good hot oven is key to making pita bread that puffs.
- Allow the loaves to rest for 30 minutes before you bake them for best results.
- Bake according to the thickness you’ve chosen for your pitas so as not to overcook them.
Pita Bread Recipe
- Make a small well in the mixture. Pour in the oil, milk and ¾ cup of water.
- Use your hands to combine the mixture into a dough. Add water a bit at a time and keep mixing until you have a nice dough.
- Add up to a ¼ cup water if the dough appears dry and hard to work.
- Cover and leave to rise until double in size.
- Once doubled in size, knead the dough gently for 15 seconds.
- Flour a surface. Take a fist sized chunk of dough and place it on the floured surface.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it has roughly a 7 inch circumference.
- Place on baking paper on a baking tray. Cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 450°F (230°C).