How to cook the perfect pitta bread

This Middle Eastern staple is well worth the minimal great efforts to make at home

These barely leavened eats, known to us by their Israeli name, but common throughout the Arab world, are some of the most ancient in existence. Although flat in appearance, they are designed to puff up during broiling and then settle, creating a hollow interior that makes a handy repository for fillings. Quick to make, and easy to feed, its little wonder theyre popular, in various forms, from southern Europe to north Africa , is not merely for stuffing, but also as utensils for dipping or scooping meat, and bulking out soups and salads.

Sealed in long-life package, pitta can be picked up at most supermarkets for mere pennies so why annoyance to reach your own? Because, unless youre luck enough to be able to find them freshly cooked, shop-bought pitta is a very poor relation, just like pizza cornerstones, 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 minimal effort.

Yvonne Rupertis pitta eat. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The flour

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

Pitta is a bread that depends on gluten development for its distinctive model; without it, the dough will not be strong enough to puff up in the oven, furnishing a simple flatbread, rather than one with a pocket.( Pitta breads get their characteristic form from a combination of hot and moisture. When the thin round of dough goes into the oven, the hot defines the top and foot while turning the liquid in the dough into steam, which is then captured between these blankets of cooked dough, effecting the dough to expand. Although women will rapidly collapse when eliminated from the heat, the pocket inside remains intact .)

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

Most of Rupertis bread do rise( and descend ), but I find the dough asks more initial kneading, and that the results shortage 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 distinction between strong and plain flour over there will be less marked. In any case, British readers are best are strongly advised to splash out on dough flour.

The flavour and somewhat nubbly composition that the wholemeal flour passes the eat is favourite with testers, although as Ruperti memoranda, this doesnt produce gluten as easily as its lily-white counterpart, so its best used in moderation. Strong wholemeal is ideal, but in such small amounts, plain will likewise do if thats what you have to mitt. If you prefer a smoother, paler pitta, replace the wholewheat with more white flour.

The fat

The Herbet brethren use rapeseed lubricant. Image: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

It is certainly possible to reach pitta without any fatty at all, although why you would want to is beyond me; is not merely does it add flavour, but it keeps the food fresher for longer. Tom and Henry Herbert employs rapeseed oil in their work The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and Belinda Harleys Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves croaks for butter instead, both of which labour just fine texturally, but the former affords the bread a rich flavor that throws me more in thought of naan, while the latter is boringly neutral. Grassy and quintessentially Mediterranean, olive is 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, adds the fatty towards the end of the kneading process. Although their pittas are luscious, its obviously harder to incorporate the lubricant at this degree, and I would be interested to know the reason behind it; some study is demonstrated that not contributing it at the beginning supports gluten shaping 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 believe these little breads involve any help in that department. That said, its common to add sugar to kickstart the action of the yeast, and although a pinch is insufficient, have the same sum as salt imparts the doughs a more well-rounded flavour: add too much, as Ruperti does, and they lose the plainness that is their leader excellence; add too little, or none at all as the Herberts do, and theyre a bit underwhelming.

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

The method

Pitta dough must be sufficiently hydrated to generate steam when it matches the hot of the oven, and strong enough to catch this steam, and thus puff up, so the mixture must be both moderately wet and well-kneaded. Dont be tempted 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 bayonet or dough scraper will build life easier. If you have a food mixer, then by all means use that; excavations currently on the blink.

Packer and Srulovich recommend resting the dough overnight if “youve had” the time, as it helps the flavor develop and represents the pitta fluffier, and theyre right; if homemade pittas are perceptibly more delicious than shop-bought ones, slow-risen ones are even better.

Even if you cant wait that long, do tell the individual breads residue before influencing; merely 10 minutes obligates the relevant procedures much easier. The Herberts recommend reeling it out in one guidance only, but this is another fiddly stair I cant see the theory behind as with the oil, if anyone knows why, please explain.

However you roll them out, make sure they are thin sufficient to puff up in the short time they take to concoct, and evenly so, more, or they will blister in places, rather than blowing up like a bag. Ruperti, who discovered a bia for the pitta to be concluded with a much thinner meridian than fanny after it comes out of the oven, hints flipping the eats 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 registers the oven.

Pan-fried pitta eat by Rebecca Seal. Photo: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The cooking

Like most foods, pittas are traditionally baked at temperatures that can be difficult to replicate at home. Packer and Srulovich admonish cranking your oven up to maximum, on the fan setting if possible, and heating a baking tray or stone along with it, to give the eats the most wonderful start possible and encourage the establishment of steam.

Although the oven is certainly the best cooking alternative for pitta, as the hot from both top and foot helps to set the dough speedily, its not the only one; Rebecca Seals notebook The Islands of Greece hands an excellent recipe expending a fry pan. Harley also exploits the method used, which she recommends topping with a thick-skulled tomato sauce and crisp chocolate-brown cubes of pork or lamb, a spoonful of thick-skulled tzatziki[ and] some raw onion and tomato( pitta porn notify ). The interior pockets are less dependable, but its much more rapid if youre in a hurry, or its precisely too hot to switch the oven on.

Ruperti indicates finishing off the doughs in a red-hot wash to give them that luscious charred flavour that can be hard to achieve in a domestic oven Not merely do the pittas gaze a whole lot better that practice, but the char adds a mantle of smoky flavour. Shes right, but it isnt traditional( Packer and Srulovich inform that they are not supposed to colour much) and it will crisp up the outsides of the breads, doing them little pliable and amenable to cram. For me, it depends on what Ill be gobbling them with. Plainer occupies, such as hummus or salad, cry out for a little char, while barbecued meat or vegetables dont need it. The jury is out on my current favourite crowd, nonetheless: Marmite and banana. In my apology, Ive had an horrific pile of pitta to put away this week.

Perfect pitta food by Felicity Cloake. Photo: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

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

Put 100 ml warm ocean in a jar and scoot in the yeast and half the carbohydrate. Leave until the surface is described in foam. Meanwhile, mix the flours, remaining carbohydrate and salt in a large mingling container.

Mix the petroleum and yeasty irrigate in the flour with your fingertips, then add just enough of the remaining ocean to give you a shaggy dough it should be soft, but not very sticky( memo if youre exploiting all white-hot flour, it was likely wont involve as much as a wholemeal/ white mix ). Turn out on to a clean operate face and rub for about 10 hours( or about 8 in a food mixer on a low-toned acceleration) until smooth and elastic. Give into an oiled container, turn to coating in oil, then envelop and chill overnight, or leave somewhere warmish until doubled in width( about an hour to an hour and a half ).

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

Operating as quickly as possible, placed as many pitta as will comfortably fit on the hot stone or broiling tray while its still in the oven, flip-flop them over as you pick them up, so the side resting on the duty surface is now on top. Cook until they bag, then carefully remove and keep warm in a tea towel while you cook the residual( how long this takes is dependent upon how hot your oven goes ). Make sure to keep the oven door closed as much as possible to conserve hot. 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 baking it with other flours ?

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