How to cook the perfect pitta bread

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

These scarcely leavened doughs, 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 sag, creating a hollow interior that makes a handy storehouse for fills. Quick to move, and easy to eat, its little think theyre popular, in various forms, from southern Europe to northward Africa , is not simply for substance, but too as utensils for dipping or scooping food, and bulking out soups and salads.

Sealed in long-life package, pitta is also possible picked up at most supermarkets for merely pennies so why irritant to oblige your own? Because, unless youre luck enough to be able to find them freshly broiled, shop-bought pitta is a very poor relation, just like pizza footings, 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 lily-white flour, and generally of the high-protein, strong selection, although Yvonne Ruperti on the US-based Serious Eats website helps plain flour, both white-hot and wholemeal, explaining that using 20% wholewheat flour[ becomes] the dough much more flavourful and screwy than one stimulated with merely all-purpose flour, while also not accommodation its structure.

Pitta is a bread that depends on gluten development for its distinctive flesh; 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 pattern from a mix of heat and sweat. When the thin round of lettuce goes into the oven, the heat determines the top and bottom while changing the liquid in the dough into steam, which is then captured between these layers of cooked lettuce, justification the eat to expand. Although it will rapidly collapse when removed from the heat, the pocket inside remains intact .)

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

Most of Rupertis doughs do rise( and descend ), but I find the dough compels more initial kneading, and that the results shortfall 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 commemorated. In all such cases, British readers are best recommended that you splash out on bread flour.

The flavour and slightly nubbly quality that the wholemeal flour passes the eat is popular with testers, although as Ruperti memoes, this doesnt cause gluten as easily as its lily-white counterpart, so its good used in moderation. Strong wholemeal is ideal, but in such small amounts, plain will also do if thats what you have to mitt. If “youd prefer” a smoother, paler pitta, supplant the wholewheat with more grey flour.

The fat

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

It is certainly possible to do pitta without any fatty at all, although why you would want to is beyond me; is not simply does it contribute flavour, but it keeps the eat fresher for longer. Tom and Henry Herbert applies rapeseed oil in their work The Fabulous Baker Brothers, and Belinda Harleys Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves exits for butter instead, both of which handiwork just fine texturally, but the former grants the bread a rich smell that places me more in memory 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 fat toward the end of the kneading process. Although their pittas are luscious, its obviously harder to incorporate the oil at this point, and I would be interested to know the reason behind it; some experiment been shown that not including it at the beginning helps gluten constitution 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 fantasize these little breads necessary 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 sum as salt renders the breads a more well-rounded smell: add too much, as Ruperti does, and they lose the plainness that is their chief excellence; add too little, or none at all as the Herberts do, and theyre a bit underwhelming.

A great smoke pitta from Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. Image: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The method

Pitta dough must be sufficiently hydrated to generate steam where reference is matches the heat of the oven, and strong enough to net this steam, and thus puff up, so the combination must be both reasonably moisten and well-kneaded. Dont be tempted to flour the labor surface 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 attain life easier. If you have a food mixer, then by all means use that; ours currently on the blink.

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

Even if you cant await that long, do let private individuals eats residue before shaping; just 10 times stimulates the process much simpler. The Herberts recommend wheeling it out in one counseling simply, but this is another fiddly gradation I cant see the gues behind as with the lubricant, if someone knows why, please explain.

However you reel them out, make sure they find themselves thin enough to puff up in the short time they take to concoct, and evenly so, very, or they will blister in places, rather than blowing up like a bag. Ruperti, who noticed a tendency for the pitta to end up with a much thinner top than underside after it comes out of the oven, proposes flipping the bread over before putting them in the oven, so the pocket of breeze that rises during the course of its final proofing theatre is at the bottom when the dough recruits the oven.

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

The cooking

Like most doughs, pittas are traditionally broiled at temperatures that can be difficult to replicate at home. Packer and Srulovich admonish cranking your oven up to peak, on the devotee adjusting if possible, and heating a baking tray or stone along with it, to give the doughs the most wonderful start possible and encourage the creation of steam.

Although the oven is surely the best cooking alternative for pitta, as the hot from both top and foot helps to set the dough promptly, its not the only one; Rebecca Seals book The Islands of Greece causes an excellent recipe use a frying pan. Harley also use this method, which she recommends topping with a dense tomato sauce and crisp dark-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 dependable, but its much quicker if youre in a hurry, or its only too hot to switch the oven on.

Ruperti indicates finishing off the eats in a red-hot pan to give them that delicious charred flavour that can be hard to achieve in a domestic oven Not simply do the pittas gaze a lot better that behavior, but the blacken includes a coating of smoky smell. Shes right, but it isnt traditional( Packer and Srulovich counsel that they are not supposed to colour much) and it will crisp up the outsides of the eats, building them little pliant and amenable to stuffing. For me, it depends on what Ill be dining them with. Plainer replenishes, such as hummus or salad, cry out for a little char, while barbecued meats or veggies dont needed here. The jury is out on my current favourite satisfying, nonetheless: Marmite and banana. In my explanation, Ive had an awful heap of pitta to put away this week.

Perfect pitta dough by Felicity Cloake. Picture: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

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

Put 100 ml warm ocean in a jar and scoot in the yeast and half the sugar. Leave until the surface is covered in lather. Meanwhile, blend the flours, persisting sugar and salt in a large mingling container.

Mix the oil and yeasty liquid in the flour with your fingertips, then contribute just enough of the remaining water to give you a shaggy lettuce it should be soft, but not too sticky( memorandum if youre use all grey flour, it was likely wont require as much as a wholemeal/ white combination ). Turn out on to a clean design surface and rub for about 10 minutes( or about 8 in a food mixer on a low-toned hasten) until smooth and elastic. Employ into an oiled bowl, turn to hair in lubricant, then comprise and chill overnight, or leave somewhere warmish until redoubled in length( about an hour to an hour and a half ).

Heat the oven to maximum, preferably fan, with a roasting stone or heavy baking tray in there. Meanwhile, divide the dough into approximately 80 g balls, coating with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 10 instants, then roll out on a floured skin-deep to rounds about 0.5 mm dense, reaching sure they are evenly dense all over. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.

Operating as rapidly as is practicable, threw as numerous pitta as will comfortably fit on the red-hot stone or broiling tray while its still in the oven, turning them over as you pick them up, so the side resting on the effort skin-deep 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 on how red-hot your oven gets ). Make sure to keep the oven door shut as much 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 baking it with other flours ?

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