How to cook the perfect pitta bread

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

These barely 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 broiling and then subside, creating a hollow interior that makes a handy storehouse for meets. Quick to represent, and easy to devour, its little meditate theyre popular, in various forms, from southern Europe to northward Africa , is not simply for substance, but likewise as utensils for dipping or scooping meat, and bulking out soups and salads.

Sealed in long-life packaging, pitta is also possible picked up at most supermarkets for mere pennies so why irritation to form your own? Because, unless youre lucky enough to be able to find them freshly broiled, 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 minimal effort.

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

The flour

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

Pitta is a bread that depends on gluten development for its distinctive anatomy; 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 formation from a combination of hot and sweat. When the thin round of dough goes into the oven, the heat places the top and foot while moving the liquid in the dough into steam, which is then trapped between these coatings of cooked dough, causing the eat to expand. Even though it is will rapidly collapse when removed from the heat, the pocket inside remains intact .)

Pitta food by Belinda Harley. Photo: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Most of Rupertis doughs do rise( and descend ), but I find the dough necessitates more initial kneading, and that the outcome 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 discrepancies between strong and plain flour over there will be less marked. In all such cases, British readers are best advised to splash out on bread flour.

The flavour and slightly nubbly texture that the wholemeal flour yields the breads is popular with testers, although as Ruperti notes, this doesnt grow gluten as readily as its lily-white counterpart, so its better used in moderation. Strong wholemeal is paragon, but in such small amounts, plateau will likewise do if thats what you have to side. If “youd prefer” a smoother, paler pitta, change the wholewheat with more white-hot flour.

The fat

The Herbet brethren use rapeseed petroleum. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

It is certainly possible to induce pitta without any fat at all, although why you would want to is beyond me; not only does it lend flavour, but it keeps the eat fresher for longer. Tom and Henry Herbert use rapeseed lubricant in their volume The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and Belinda Harleys Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves disappears for butter instead, both of which wield just fine texturally, but the former passes the bread a rich flavor that throws me more in sentiment 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, includes the fat toward the end of the kneading process. Although their pittas are luscious, its emphatically harder to incorporate the petroleum at this stage, and I would be interested to know the reason behind it; some experiment been shown that not contributing it at the beginning inspires gluten pattern 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 pitch-black onion seed ), but I dont remember these little foods necessity any help in that district. That said, its common to add sugar to kickstart the action of the yeast, and although a pinch is insufficient, having the same amount as salt establishes the foods a more well-rounded flavour: add too much, as Ruperti does, and they lose the plainness that is their manager dignity; add too little, or none at all as the Herberts do, and theyre a bit underwhelming.

A enormous smoke 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 matches the heat of the oven, and strong enough to catch this steam, and thus puff up, so the potpourrus must be both somewhat soggy and well-kneaded. Dont be persuasion to flour the handiwork surface unless the dough is so sticky as to be completely unmanageable; it will come together eventually and, in the meantime, a palette spear or dough scraper will reach 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 you have the time, as it helps the flavor develop and obligates 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 private individuals bread residue before shaping; merely 10 hours shapes the relevant procedures much easier. The Herberts recommend rolling it out in one tack merely, but this is another fiddly step I cant penetrate the think behind as with the petroleum, if someone knows why, please explain.

However you roll them out, make sure they find themselves thin enough 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 bag. Ruperti, who detected a predilection for the pitta to end up with a much thinner crest than underside after it comes out of the oven, suggests flipping the doughs over before putting them in the oven, so the pocket of air that rises during the final proofing theatre is at the bottom when the dough recruits the oven.

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

The cooking

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

Although the oven is certainly the best cooking alternative for pitta, as the heat from both top and bottom helps to set the dough quickly, its not the only one; Rebecca Seals volume The Islands of Greece yields an excellent recipe applying a frying pan. Harley too employs 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-skulled tzatziki[ and] some raw onion and tomato( pitta porn notify ). The interior pockets are less reliable, but its much quicker if youre in a hurry, or its simply too hot to switch the oven on.

Ruperti proposes finishing off the bread in a red-hot wash to give them that delicious charred flavour that can be hard to achieve in a domestic oven Not exclusively do the pittas gaze a lot better that direction, but the charring adds a mantle of smoky flavour. Shes right, but it isnt traditional( Packer and Srulovich caution that they are not supposed to colour much) and it will crisp up the outsides of the foods, establishing them less pliable and amenable to stuffing. For me, it depends on what Ill be feeing them with. Plainer occupies, such as hummus or salad, cry out for a bit char, while barbecued meats or veggies dont needed here. The jury is out on my current favourite occupy, nonetheless: Marmite and banana. In my defence, Ive had an awful batch of pitta to put away this week.

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

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

Put 100 ml warm sea in a jug and scoot in the yeast and half the carbohydrate. Leave until the surface is contained in froth. Meanwhile, compound the flours, persisting sugar and salt in a large desegregating container.

Mix the petroleum and yeasty sea in the flour with your fingertips, then include just enough of the remaining sea to give you a shaggy lettuce it should be soft, but not too sticky( memo if youre utilizing all white flour, it probably wont requirement as much as a wholemeal/ white concoction ). Turn out on to a clean operate surface and knead for about 10 times( or about 8 in a food mixer on a low-toned hasten) until smooth and elastic. Set into an oiled container, turn to coat in petroleum, then spread and refrigerate overnight, or leave somewhere warmish until doubled in size( about an hour to an hour and a half ).

Heat the oven to maximum, preferably devotee, with a cooking stone or heavy baking tray in there. Meanwhile, divide the dough into approximately 80 g pellets, envelop with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 10 times, then roll out on a floured skin-deep to rounds about 0.5 mm thick, building 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 numerous pitta as will comfortably fit on the hot stone or baking tray while its still in the oven, flipping them over as you pick them up, so the side resting on the job surface is now on top. Cook until they balloon, then carefully remove and keep warm in a tea towel while you cook the remain( how long this takes is dependent on how hot your oven get ). Make sure to keep the oven door shut as far as possible to keep 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 cooking it with other flours ?

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