You might not think of pita bread as something you can–or should–make at home. The idea had certainly never occurred to me.
Then one day I was checking out FoodWishes.com and saw a video for how to make pita bread. While he’s mixing up the ingredients in the video, Chef John casually drops the comment that the pita bread dough is a lot like the pizza dough recipe also on his site. And that’s when it clicked!
While I’m sure the Food Wishes recipe is delicious, I wanted to create my own pita bread recipe using whole wheat flour. Taking a cue from Chef John, I used the exact same dough recipe that I use for pizza. However, the method is a little bit different.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Proof the yeast: Microwave the cup of water for about a minute, until warm but not hot. You should be able to put a finger in the water and hold it there for a few seconds. Pour the water into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, stirring to combine. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let sit 5 minutes until foamy.
- Combine the salt, whole-wheat flour and 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour. Add the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture along with the olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. Continue to stir and sprinkle in flour from the final measuring cup until the dough forms a shaggy mass and mostly pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board and knead. (Push the dough mass down and away from you with the heel of your hand. Then, fold the dough mass over the indent you just made and turn it 90 degrees. Fold it in half again, then press down and away with the heel of your hand again.) Incorporate the additional cup of flour as needed. After 5-10 minutes it will become smooth and elastic.
- Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the cutting board while you wash out the mixing bowl. Dry the bowl and coat it with a little extra olive oil. Swirl the dough ball around in the oil. Then, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes (I suggest your oven with the light on or your recently warmed microwave). Or, place the dough into a zip-top bag and stick it in your fridge overnight or even several days if you won't be making pita bread right away.
- When you are ready to cook the pita, punch down the dough and form it into a rectangle on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut it into 16 pieces and form each into a ball by pulling the top taut (similar to forming bagels). Cover with a clean kitchen towel.
- Working with one dough ball at a time, use a rolling pin to roll into thin rounds, about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside and let rest 5 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, heat a heavy cast iron skillet over medium heat.
- Add the first round of dough to the hot pan. Cook about 1 minute on the first side, until beginning to brown on the bottom, and then flip. This is where the magic starts! Press down on the cooked side of the pita, pressing the raw side into the hot pan. After a few moments, your pita will start to bubble and puff! With luck, you'll see the whole thing inflate--but it's ok if it doesn't. When the second side is golden brown, the pita is done! Repeat for each round of dough If you plan to eat them right away, heat the oven to 200F and stash them inside on a sheet pan.
- To freeze the pita, cool completely and place in a zip-top freezer bag. To defrost, let them come to room temperature in the sealed bag (or in a smaller bag if you only need a few). Toast in the toaster or place in a hot oven for a few minutes until warm.