I promised you pitas for your muhammara, so pitas you shall have. And without many words, because I think pitas mostly speak for themselves, and they’re so easy to make that I see no need to throw together a tutorial. You can do this; anyone can do this. And it’s fun, because at some point in the pita-making you get to throw – literally throw – dough on a hot pan and pretend you’re a Greek grandma. Or perhaps you are a Greek grandma, which means you’ve done this before and you certainly don’t need a whippersnapper like me telling you how to make pitas.
Embarrassing story for you: I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life fascinated by pitas. Why? Mostly because of their pockets. Somewhere along the line (instead of just googling it) I convinced myself that a very skilled knife person slices the pitas in half and then cuts a hole, very carefully, through the center to make the pockets. This didn’t solve the mystery of how the whole pitas get their pockets, but I wasn’t concerned about it.
As it turns out, pitas like to make their own pockets, all by themselves. It’s the way you cook them: you throw the discs of pita dough on a hot pan in your oven and voila! they cook and inflate themselves and suddenly, you have bread with a hollow center. And they are sooooo dramatic about this, too.
Pitas, man: they just want to be fluffy. And smooth…the dough is as smooth as silk and just about as cloudlike as dough can get. It takes a little cutting and rolling to put them together, but that’s about it: I knead things in my stand mixer because I’m lazy and probably a total hack, which means very little hands on time. There’s 3 rises, but don’t let that freak you out: the second one is just to let the dough relax a little before you roll them out into pita shapes.
These are great for anything, but especially delicious with that muhammara I just made. You can serve them all soft and warm from the oven, or you can toast them: totally up to you, but they’re great sliced into triangles to dip, and any leftovers you have will make great sandwich-holders. This recipe only makes 8 pitas, which makes it manageable for every day. I’d suggest eating them the day of or the following day, and freeze any you don’t use: it’s bread, and therefore at its best right from the oven.
Did you notice how beautiful that background board is under the pitas? It’s from Pacific Merchants, and you’ll see more of that one in the near future. Remember: you’ve got from now until November 10 to buy whatever you want from them and get 20% off your order by using my birthday code, “Periodic20.” You could even employ the “one for you, one for me” technique I so often use when shopping for presents, because it’s that affordable. And who among us doesn’t need more serving things? I thought so. Kate from Pacific Merchants is great, and she left a few comments on my last post; if any of you have questions about their products, she’ll happily answer those for you.
Adapted from a recipe I have been meaning to try since forever from my friend Jen’s blog, Juanita’s Cocina. She hung up her blogging apron a while back, but left her archives out there for the internet to take advantage of. I need to email her. Sorry: that’s my little public post-it to myself.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110˚F)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for oiling bowl)
- 3 to 4 cups flour (I typically use right at 3 1/2 cups, but having extra on hand is a good idea)
This would be a good time to mention that I become so hyperfocused on yeasted bread things that I can’t take step by step photos, mostly. Jen did, however, so if you’d like to see her step-by-steps of this process? Head over here to get a wonderful visual of how these come together.
Oil bottom and up the sides of a large bowl with olive oil. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine water, yeast, honey, and sugar; stir and allow to sit until foamy. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups of the flour and stir on medium-low speed to incorporate ingredients together. With the mixer on low, add more flour – 1/4 cup at a time at first and then tapering off to spoonfuls – until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Using a plastic dough scraper, turn out the dough onto a floured surface (keep some flour out for your hands as well: this dough can get sticky when you handle it, but a little flour goes a long way here. Shape into a smooth ball and place in the oiled bowl, rolling it around until ball is covered in oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen away from drafts. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled (or more) in size.
Deliver dough bowl back to your work station and punch it down (that always sounds so violent: press it down to get the air out of it) and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. Work it into a long tube-like shape, then use a large knife or bench scraper to evenly divide the log of dough into 8 equal parts. Work those slices into balls, place evenly apart on a sheet pan, cover and let rest for 20 minutes in your warm place.
Okay! Round three. Now that your dough has relaxed, this part should be easy. First, lay out some parchment paper enough to house the rolled out rounds of pita. Next, flour that paper – a lot – because the one thing pitas want to do is stick their little bodies to the parchment so you have to work at peeling them off when it’s time to cook them. You don’t want that: pulling them too much removes the air from them, which means flat, non-dramatic pitas. Flour as if your life depended on it.
With the towel over the rest of the balls, remove one ball at a time and roll out anywhere from a 6-inch to an 8-inch round: whatever works best for you. Place them gently on your prepared parchment and cover gently with plastic wrap. Repeat and allow to sit there once more for about 45 minutes, until slightly poofed.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450˚F and place an upside-down sheet pan in the oven to preheat as well: that’s what you’ll be cooking your pitas on. Once pitas are ready and oven is preheated, carefully remove one pita at a time from its resting place, open the oven, and throw it on the hot sheet pan – i generally do two at a time – and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until cooked and puffed. Careful: you don’t want to overcook these: a minute can mean the difference between soft, pliable pita pillows and pizza crust (and if that happens, they work wonderfully as makeshift pizza crust). Remove immediately and set on a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining pitas, until you have a stack of clouds.
These really are best the day of, so if possible, eat them within 24 hours of making them. If you can’t, store in an airtight container for up 2 days, or they freeze well.