Pitas are so good fresh- crisp but soft, with a slight smoky tang of burnt flour on the floury surface. Like tortillas, you want to keep them warm in a covered basket. Their amazing pockets create what is better than a sandwich, because the freshly baked bread perfectly encloses whatever you put in it.
I was talking about Indian food to a woman who makes goodies at the deli at our local package store, Town and Country, and the topic of pitas came up. I gave her my URL and promised she could find out how to make perfect pitas very easily there. So I’d better get on it.
OK, first, this is so easy, but it is even easier if you read my post on bread machines. I am serious. Go buy one at the thrift store for $5-$15 and improve your life. It is great for preparing a simple dough like what you need for pitas. I do get away with throwing in a small handful of flaxseeds, but try it half white and half spelt or whole wheat. Also the white whole wheat from King Arthur is pretty nice used straight for pitas.
Now for the ingredients:
3 c. flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water.
Dump in the workbowl, set to dough setting, and push the button. Or, follow the steps for easy basic dough in my post Making Bread: Fear Not.
Now, and this is important- when the dough is almost risen, prepare your oven. Remove the top racks. Leave the lowest rack in place in the lowest possible slot. Put your biggest, heaviest cookie sheet on it. Now preheat to 500F. Not a degree less. 550F if your oven will do it. And this is why you removed the other racks. I have several oven scars on my forearms from touching those metal racks for a nanosecond. Yes, I need long oven gloves. I should put that on my wish list.
Keep them floury so they don’t stick together.
Roll them out into circles like a pancake, a little less than 1/4 inch thick, flouring as you go so they don’t stick. I put another floured wooden board out for the rolled out pitas to wait on until the oven is ready. When the oven is preheated, open it and toss as many pitas as will fit onto the cookie sheet. Put on the oven light. If you are busy set a timer for 2.5 minutes. Better yet, call any available children to watch. You will hear a lot of “wow”s when they start to puff. The water in the wet dough between the two sides of the baking pita is trapped inside as it turns to steam. By 2.5 minutes they should have puffed and have a small brown spot on the bottom. Quickly reach in and flip them with your hand. Don’t wait too long or they will become hard and fragile. Let them brown slightly on the other side, a minute tops, before tossing them into a cloth lined basket you can cover, and throwing in some more pitas to bake. Don’t let the oven get below 500F or they won’t puff. These are just starting to puff. The ones closer to the door take longer. Keep the baked ones covered in what ever you are bring them to the table in, see top photo.
This is fast and easy- I can make a batch of prepared dough into a bowl of hot fragrant pitas in 15 minutes if the oven is hot. They don’t last- definitely wrap them in plastic or wax paper. They are so good with middle eastern food. Hummus, the bowl garnished with raw red onions, cilantro, and lemon juice, feta, eggplant- yum! Try making the hummus with fava beans. Very healthy for men.
Anyway, the bottom of the oven thing is a good trick to approximate a village oven, and it really does create an authentic tasting pita which is fresh, hot, and baked with healthy ingredients. Try it!