Pita is the quintessential bread in the Middle East. The best way to enjoy it is by cutting it in half and filling it with delicious Levantine specialties like hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, or our favorite, of course, labna cheese!
In Israel, where I used to live, pita is the most essential food in everyone’s diet: people would always pick a nice stack of pitas over a regular loaf of bread, no matter how good.
Pita is not difficult at all to prepare at home, and is much better than the store-bought stuff: try it! There is nothing like a freshly baked pita, piping hot and perfectly soft.
There are a few things I really like about pita – in random order:
1) it only requires the most basic ingredients (yeast, water, sugar, flour and salt)
2) it can be made easily by hand, without a stand mixer
3) it can be cooked in a pan or in an oven, so it’s good even for camping!
4) it freezes better than any bread I know: pop it briefly in the microwave or in a toaster oven, and it feels just like fresh again
5) it’s so soft and pillowy, it soaks up fillings and condiments like no other bread
On that note, I should probably mention that depending on the country you visit in the Middle East, pitas can be fluffy or paper thin. In Israel, we like them on the fluffier side, more pillowy, so that’s the type of pita my recipe makes, but if you want a pita more like they do, for example, in Lebanon, you can still follow the same recipe, and just flatten the dough a lot thinner than I recommend.
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 300 g lukewarm water
- 10 g active dry yeast
- 25 g sugar
- 10 g salt
- In a medium bowl mix water, sugar and yeast.10 g active dry yeast, 25 g sugar, 300 g lukewarm water
- Add the flour, mix briefly, then add the salt, and knead all the ingredients by hand (a stand mixer is fine too if you have one) until the dough comes together. Move the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured work surface for about five minutes, until smooth.500 g all-purpose flour, 10 g salt
- Place the dough back in its bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise until nearly doubled in volume.
- Divide the dough into tight round balls of about 100g weight and let sit on the counter for 5 minutes, still covered with a towel, then, with a rolling pin, flatten the balls to a 1/2 cm thickness. Place the disks to proof on a piece of parchment paper for 20 minutes.
- Preheat a large pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes, then lower the heat to medium and bake the pitas, starting on the side that previously rested on the parchment paper.
- Flip the pitas every 10 seconds in the pan until every pita magically pops up, creating the traditional pocket everyone loves.
- If the pan flipping method seems daunting, you can also bake the pitas in a preheated oven at 400°F - I just find the margin of error to be slightly higher if I bake the dough in the oven, as oven-baked pitas don't consistently have a good pocket.
- Move the pitas to a towel and keep them wrapped so they stay warm and soft.