Why are pitas so much better than regular bread?
A wrap made on a pita is much more fun and sophisticated than a sandwich, even with the same fillings.
Pitas are actually one of the oldest breads in the world, with origins dating back at least 4,000 years to the Middle East, according to Mashed, an online food publication. Although there is a general history of this flatbread, the exact origins are difficult to trace because it dates back so far.
Early versions were made with the sourdough method, leaving about a pita’s worth of dough to ferment with yeast found in the air until it was time to make the next batch, according to Mashed. . Now we can use yeast found in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
Pitas made their way to the United States like many other foods — with Greek immigrants in the mid-20th century, according to Mashed.
Pitas are one of the many flatbreads found around the world. Pitas are defined by the air pocket that is created during cooking.
The easiest way to bake pitas is on a dry, flat surface like a griddle, electric skillet, or even a griddle less, but there are recipes that use the oven.
It is important to ensure that the cooking temperature is high enough. If it’s too cold, the pitas will still be delicious, but won’t have their signature pocket.
This pocket is where we fill all the good stuff, like falafel or gyro meat or just a bunch of garlic hummus.
To make sure these happen, there is a lot of waiting. There’s the initial rise time of two hours, the ball rest time of 30 minutes, and then the extended rest time of 10-30 minutes. But all that downtime is worth it for the perfect pita bread.
Use these hours to prepare and cook the toppings.
I love how different types of bread are pretty much the same thing – yeast, flour, water, salt – but different mixing methods, different additions like eggs or oil, and different rise times can produce different completely different breads.
Pitas, with such ancient origins, are the simplest combination of flour, yeast, water, sugar, oil and salt.
Besides being the perfect container for a gyro, pitas work well as a bread for a standard sandwich or as a pizza crust – just add a few toppings and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted.
As with everything, of course, it’s okay to buy pitas at the store. They can usually be found in the bread aisle or the deli aisle, depending on the store.
But taking the time to mix the dough and prepare it at home only adds an extra layer to the specialness of a meal.
- 1 cup warm lukewarm water.
- 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) Active Dry Active Yeast.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, to start.
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt.
- Add warm water, sugar, and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer with a cup of flour. Whisk everything together until smooth and set aside for 15 minutes. The mixture should bubble and foam.
- Add the olive oil and salt, along with 1½ cups of flour. Mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until the dough is soft and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. If it sticks, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour at a time.
- Knead over low heat for five to six minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, turn it out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a ball.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Turn it over to coat with oil and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured work surface. Shape the dough into a large ball and cut into eight pieces using a sharp knife. We’re estimating roughly here, but if you want everything to be equal, use a food scale to weigh each piece of dough to make sure they’re equal.
- Shape each piece of dough into a small ball, pulling the dough up the sides and tucking the ends under the bottom. Place the balls about an inch apart on the floured work surface and cover them with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Once rested, roll the dough balls into flat, round pitas, about 1/4 inch thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 30 minutes. The longer the dough sits, the more likely it is to form a pocket in the pita when baking.
- Brush a cast iron skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the pita bread dough to the skillet and cook until the bread begins to puff up and the bottom is golden brown, about two to three minutes. Flip and cook two more minutes. While it’s ideal for the pita bread to begin to puff up and fill with warm air to get the perfect pockets, it’s not necessary or always expected. Wrap the baked bread in a clean kitchen towel while you continue to bake the rest of the pita bread to keep it warm.
- Best if served immediately. Otherwise, the pita will last in the airtight container at room temperature for about five to seven days.
Recipe adapted from Sweet Simple Vegan at https://sweetsimplevegan.com/homemade-pita-bread/.