Bread Baker: Pita Bread Tested

When I was pulling together the different recipes for the goat meal I was making, I knew I had to make some pita bread. I turned to my trusty baking cookbook from King Arthur Flour, and of course there was a recipe. The introduction to the recipe says in part, “This is just a simple white bread recipe cooked in an unusual way.”

After baking two rounds of the bread I had learned a few valuable things:

  • Pita bread is insanely easy and fast. You can go from start (combining ingredients) to finish (serving fresh bread) in under two hours.
  • This is one recipe where going the whole grain route doesn’t lead to a better, more authentic, bread.
  • A hot oven is important, but a hot baking stone or cookie sheet is even more critical.

With my first round of pita bread, I went for the nutritious route. Instead of using only all-purpose flour, I combined 50 percent white whole wheat flour with 50 percent bread flour (the higher protein content in the bread flour can help heavier dough with whole grain flour rise better). I also substituted olive oil for the vegetable oil in the original recipe.

My recipe tweaks done, I mixed the ingredients, let the dough rise for an hour, then divided the dough evenly into eight balls. I rolled out the dough on an oiled cookie sheet, then popped it in the oven.

The results were disappointing – the bread didn’t puff at all!

The next day I tried again. (After all, it doesn’t take very long to make!) I stuck with the recipe’s original ingredients because I wasn’t thrilled with my changes. The olive oil, especially, wasn’t appealing. Then I heated my oven, this time with a baking stone inside. The hot stone made all the difference – the pitas did puff, and there was a nice brown on their bottoms.

This is a tremendous recipe – simple and impressive. Just make sure the pitas are going on a hot surface. If you don’t have a baking stone, heat a cookie sheet instead.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Step 1. Combine all ingredients together. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or with a mixer for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Let the dough rise for 1 hour. After 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. (This will give your oven and baking stone time to heat. If you don’t have a stone, simply warm a cookie sheet 15 minutes before baking.)

Step 2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into eight balls. Roll out four balls into 6 inch-wide pitas. Let pitas rest for 15 minutes (slide your cookie sheet into the oven now). Note: It’s key the pitas don’t stick as they’re resting. Be generous with the flour.

Step 3. With two hands, grab a pita and lay it on your stone/sheet. Repeat with remaining pitas. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Step 4. Roll out and cook four remaining pitas and serve!

I still haven’t completely mastered placing the dough on the stone. Any place the dough gets pulled or pinched it won’t puff up. But even if it doesn’t puff completely, the pitas are incredible, with a great crunchy and chewy at the same time texture. Enjoy!

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  • Lily

    question: your first “failed” attempt you stated you oiled the cookie sheet. Do you skip oiling the cookie sheet/baking stone for the successful version?

    It’s impressive your oven gets to 500 degrees. Our oven takes 10 minutes longer to preheat than the digital readout claims to even get to 400 degrees. I’ve never tried 500 yet…we may have to invest in the stone before we try this recipe, but it looks delicious!

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      Correct, you don’t need to oil the cookie sheet you’ve heated in the oven. Because the dough is floured, it won’t stick.

      If you’re going to be doing bread baking, I would highly recommend getting a pizza stone. They aren’t that expensive (about $40), and having one improves the crust you get on bread (not to mention pizza) immensely.

      As for your oven, I would suggest buying an oven thermometer, just so you can keep close tabs on the temperature.

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