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Feb 15, 2012

Homemade Pita Bread

I love pita bread. Pitas are a flat bread with a large pocket inside, which forms as it cooks quickly at high temperatures. The pocket is ideal for fillings and, in fact, this is how it is traditionally used in Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisines, where the bread is a staple. I generally use it to make sandwiches and homemade pita chips, as well as occasionally using it to dip in soups, and always keep some on hand. Often, I buy fresh pita bread from the bakery at Whole Foods, but when I'm feeling ambitious, I use a variation of this recipe to make my own.
The dough is very easy to work with and comes together quickly. In fact, the only time-consuming part is cooking them. Each pita cooks quickly, but you have to be there the whole time to monitor their progress. The resulting pitas a delicious and well worth the effort. You can substitute 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour in this recipe without sacrificing anything in terms of the texture of the finished product. Click past the jump for the recipe.
Pita Bread
(Adapted from this recipe)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups water, warm (105-115F)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3-4 cups all-purpose flour

Combine sugar, water and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
Stir in salt and 3 cups of flour, until dough is smooth. Add remaining flour a tablespoon or two at a time, mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 4-5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours.
Turn on your broiler, leaving the rack in the center of the oven, and very lightly oil a baking sheet.
Punch the dough down and divide it into 10 even pieces. Shape each into ball by grasping the corners of each piece and pinching them together. Cover the balls with a clean dishtowel and allow the dough to rest, for 15 minutes so they will be easier to roll out.
Roll out until balls form circles about 1/8 inch thick.
Place on baking sheet (you may have to do them in groups of only 2 or 3) and broil for 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Flip over and broil again for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, until browned. You may have to adjust the cooking time a bit, depending on how hot your broiler gets.
Remove from oven and cool between kitchen towels to keep the pitas soft. Once they are cool, store in an airtight container.
Makes 10 pitas.
[Photo by Nicole Weston]