How to cook the perfect pitta bread

This Middle Eastern staple is well worth the negligible effort to make at home

These scarcely leavened breads, known to us by their Israeli name, but common in all areas of the Arab world, are some of the most ancient in existence. Although flat in appearance, they are designed to puff up during baking and then settle, creating a hollow interior that makes a handy repository for crowds. Quick to induce, and easy to snack, its little amaze theyre favourite, in various forms, from southern Europe to northward Africa , not only for substance, but too as utensils for dipping or scooping meat, and bulking out soups and salads.

Sealed in long-life packaging, pitta can be picked up at most supermarkets for merely pennies so why fus to draw your own? Because, unless youre luck enough to be able to find them freshly baked, shop-bought pitta is a very poor relation, just like pizza foundations, or indeed hummus. The real thing is soft and chewy, rather than tough, with a fluffy interior perfect for soaking up sauces theyre well worth the pretty negligible effort.

Yvonne Rupertis pitta bread. Photo: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The flour

Most pitta recipes call for lily-white flour, and generally of the high-protein, strong assortment, although Yvonne Ruperti on the US-based Serious Eats website employments plain flour, both white and wholemeal, explaining that using 20% wholewheat flour[ makes] the dough much more flavourful and screwy than one represented with precisely all-purpose flour, while also not settlement its structure.

Pitta is a bread that depends on gluten development for its peculiar word; without it, the dough will not be strong enough to puff up in the oven, producing a simple flatbread, rather than one with a pocket.( Pitta breads get their characteristic form from a combination of heat and moisture. When the thin round of lettuce goes into the oven, the heat gives the top and foot while changing the fluid in the dough into steam, which is then caught between these strata of cooked dough, generating the eat to expand. Although it will rapidly collapse when withdrawn from the hot, the pocket inside remains intact .)

Pitta bread by Belinda Harley. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Most of Rupertis eats do rise( and fall ), but I find the dough involves more initial kneading, and that the results need the chewiness of some of the others. Belatedly, I realise that the American all-purpose flour she refers to tends to be harder than our own, so the difference between strong and plain flour over there will be less labelled. In all such cases, British readers are best advised to splash out on eat flour.

The flavour and slightly nubbly quality that the wholemeal flour affords the dough is popular with testers, although as Ruperti memoes, this doesnt produce gluten as easily as its white equivalent, so its better used in moderation. Strong wholemeal is principle, but in such small amounts, plateau will likewise do if thats what you have to mitt. If you prefer a smoother, paler pitta, supplant the wholewheat with more white-hot flour.

The fat

The Herbet friends use rapeseed oil. Picture: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

It is surely possible to obligate pitta without any fatty at all, although why you would want to is beyond me; is not simply does it include flavour, but it keeps the bread fresher for longer. Tom and Henry Herbert exploits rapeseed petroleum in their volume The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and Belinda Harleys Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves leads for butter instead, both of which handiwork just fine texturally, but the former devotes the bread a rich flavor that applies me more in knowledge of naan, while the latter is boringly neutral. Grassy and quintessentially Mediterranean, olive feels like the natural choice.

Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovichs recipe in the Honey& Co cookbook, which several people recommend to me as the only one I should try, contributes the fatty toward the end of the kneading process. Although their pittas are luscious, its obviously harder to incorporate the lubricant at this stage, and I would be interested to know the reason behind it; some study suggests that not lending it at the beginning fosters gluten formation in the dough. If anyone can confirm this, I would be grateful, but I dont find it makes a significant difference, so Im going to stick with the easier method.


You dont have to look very far to find recipes for flavoured pitta( garlic and thyme, for example, or black onion seed ), but I dont contemplate these little eats requirement any help in that district. That said, its common to add sugar to kickstart the action of the yeast, and although a pinch would be sufficient, using the same amount as salt devotes the breads a more well-rounded feeling: add too much, as Ruperti does, and they lose the plainness that is their manager goodnes; add too little, or none at all as the Herberts do, and theyre a little bit underwhelming.

A enormous puffed pitta from Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. Photo: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The method

Pitta dough must be sufficiently hydrated to generate steam when it fulfils the heat of the oven, and strong enough to trap this steam, and thus puff up, so the concoction must be both somewhat soggy and well-kneaded. Dont be seduced to flour the handiwork face unless the dough is so sticky as to be completely unmanageable; it will come together eventually and, in the meantime, a palette knife or dough scraper will constitute life easier. If you have a food mixer, then by all means use that; excavations currently on the blink.

Packer and Srulovich recommend remaining the dough overnight if you have the time, as it helps the tone develop and realise the pitta fluffier, and theyre right; if homemade pittas are perceptibly more yummy than shop-bought ones, slow-risen ones are even better.

Even if you cant wait that long, do let the individual eats respite before influencing; just 10 hours constitutes the relevant procedures much easier. The Herberts recommend reeling it out in one attitude merely, but this is another fiddly gradation I cant grasp the reasoning behind as with the petroleum, if someone knows why, please explain.

However you reel them out, make sure they find themselves thin sufficient to puff up in the short time they take to concoct, and evenly so, too, or they will blister in places, rather than blowing up like a balloon. Ruperti, who discovered a predisposition for the pitta to end up with a much thinner meridian than underside after it comes out of the oven, indicates flip-flop the doughs over before putting them in the oven, so the pocket of breath that rises during the final proofing stage is at the bottom when the dough enrols the oven.

Pan-fried pitta dough by Rebecca Seal. Image: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The cooking

Like most foods, pittas are traditionally broiled at temperatures that can be difficult to replicate at home. Packer and Srulovich advise cranking your oven up to maximum, on the follower preparing if possible, and heating a baking tray or stone along with it, to give the breads the hottest start possible and encourage the establishment of steam.

Although the oven is certainly the best cooking option for pitta, as the hot from both top and bottom helps to set the dough instantly, its not the only one; Rebecca Seals volume The Islands of Greece devotes an excellent recipe expending a frying pan. Harley also utilizes this method, which she recommends topping with a thick-skulled tomato sauce and crisp chocolate-brown cubes of pork or lamb, a spoonful of thick tzatziki[ and] some raw onion and tomato( pitta porn alarm ). The interior pockets are little reliable, but its much quicker if youre in a hurry, or its just too hot to swap the oven on.

Ruperti advocates finishing off the doughs in a red-hot wash to give them that yummy charred flavour that can be hard to achieve in a domestic oven Not exclusively do the pittas search a lot better that method, but the blacken includes a stratum of smoky aroma. Shes right, but it isnt traditional( Packer and Srulovich tell that they are not supposed to colour much) and it will crisp up the outsides of the eats, realizing them little pliable and amenable to stuffing. For me, it depends on what Ill be gobbling them with. Plainer fillings, such as hummus or salad, cry out for a little char, while barbecued fleshes or vegetables dont need it. The jury is out on my current favourite fill, nonetheless: Marmite and banana. In my defense, Ive had an sickening spate of pitta to put away this week.

Perfect pitta bread by Felicity Cloake. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

( becomes 10 )
400ml warm but not hot water
10g active dehydrated yeast
2 tsp sugar
400g strong lily-white flour
100g wholemeal flour( optional, or use 500 g white-hot)
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease

Put 100 ml heated sea in a jug and wipe in the yeast and half the sugar. Leave until the surface is contained in foam. Meanwhile, blend the flours, standing carbohydrate and salt in a large mixing container.

Mix the lubricant and yeasty irrigate in the flour with your fingertips, then lend just enough of the remaining irrigate to give you a shaggy dough it should be soft, but not very sticky( note if youre expending all white flour, it was likely wont need as much as a wholemeal/ grey mixture ). Turn out on to a clean job skin-deep and rub for about 10 hours( or about 8 in a food mixer on a low hasten) until smooth and elastic. Employ into an oiled container, turn to hair in petroleum, then deal and chill overnight, or leave somewhere warmish until redoubled in size( about an hour to an hour and a half ).

Heat the oven to maximum, preferably devotee, with a baking stone or heavy baking tray in there. Meanwhile, divide the dough into approximately 80 g dances, coating with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 10 times, then roll out on a floured face to rounds about 0.5 mm dense, moving sure they are evenly thick all over. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.

Operating as rapidly as possible, set as many pitta as will comfortably fit on the red-hot stone or cooking tray while its still in the oven, flip-flop them over as you pick them up, so the side resting on the drive surface is now on top. Cook until they balloon, then carefully remove and keep warm in a tea towel while you cook the rest( how long this takes will depend on how red-hot your oven goes ). Make sure to keep the oven door closed as much as possible to keep heat. Eat the same day, or freeze.

Pitta, pide, khubz which form of this very versatile flatbread is your favourite, and how do you like to eat it? And has anyone had any success broiling it with other flours ?

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