If you've never tried pita bread, then you're missing out! Pita bread originates in the Middle East and is well known for its round shape that can be made into a pocket. In many Middle Eastern countries and cultures, pita bread is eaten with hummus, shawarma, falafel and a number of other regional delicacies. The bread can also be used to make a quick sandwich by placing your favorite condiments inside, instead of between two pieces of bread.
Try this simpler pita bread recipe and you will think twice before trying sliced bread again!
Recipe makes: about 8-12 pitas, depending how you shape them
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups water at room temperature
About 1 1/2 hours before shaping, or for the best flavor, about 8 hours to 3 days ahead, mix the dough.
The dough can either be done in a mixer or by hand (although a mixer is of course the easier option)
With the Mixer: In the bowl of the mixer, combine all of the ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until all the flour is moistened (about 20 seconds). Then, change to the dough hook and raise the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes. By the end of the mixing process, the dough should stand clean in the bowl and be very soft and smooth, a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary.
By Hand: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for 1/4 of the flour. Then, with a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until the flour is moistened and knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together. Sprinkle a bit more of the flour on the counter or a cutting board and place the dough on it. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding as little flour as possible. The dough should be very sticky. Then, cover it in the bowl and allow it to rest for about 5-20 minutes until it is not as sticky.
After you have waited until the dough is less sticky, knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes until it is soft, smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. If needed, add a bit of flour or water.
Next, let the dough rise. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with plastic wrap and wait until the dough rises to double its height. Refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days, checking it every hour for the first four hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.
Now you are ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit (246 degrees Celsius) one hour before baking. Place the oven shelf at the lowest level and have a cast-iron, baking stone, or baking sheet in the oven before preheating.
Then shape the dough. Cut the dough into 8-12 pieces, working with one piece at a time. While you are working, keep the rest of the dough covered with a damp cloth. On a floured space, shape each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten them into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before baking.
To bake, quickly place one piece of the dough directly on the stone or skillet and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed, but not yet beginning to brown. If your pita is not moist enough it will not puff up, so have a bit of water at your side to splash on the pita. If you are using a baking stone or sheet, you can cook up to 3-4 pitas at a time.
When the pitas are done, transfer them to a clean towel. Before serving, you can reheat the pita for about 30 seconds so they are warm.
Enjoy this tasty bread with your family or give it as a gift to your friends! Homemade pita bread is truly the best!