On Monday morning, I set about to bake some homemade pita bread. Historically, I’m not the greatest baker. Lopsided cakes, brick-like loaves of bread, and a batch of very ugly donuts (as well as many other oven atrocities) can all attest to this fact. I chose a super simple recipe, followed it to the letter, and failed miserably. My two big faults – rolling my pitas too thin and not knowing that my oven thermometer is a whopping 23 degrees off. That’s kind of a big deal when baking. As a result, my pita rounds were extremely puffy, which I interpreted as a good sign while baking, but very crispy and overdone. The Hubs called it a success, proclaimed that I had made pita chips and polished off all of the leftover whipped feta and hummus in the fridge.
For round two on Tuesday, I chose a recipe with a few more ingredients, including honey and olive oil. I think the two brought much needed moisture and a little flavor to my pita. I also was extra careful to not roll them past the 6 1/2 to 7 inch diameter the recipe recommends. The results were tremendously different, and these little guys have completely changed how I feel about pita bread. This is also a super easy bread recipe to try if you’re new to baking bread at home.
This pita bread is so soft and fluffy and perfectly textured – not at all like the little cardboard-like rounds you find at the grocery store. It is dense enough to hold a pocket full of falafel, vegetables and sauce but is also light and just a touch chewy. The bread flour is a must in this recipe because the dough needs the extra protein to give it just the right texture. It’s totally worth an extra trip to the store if you don’t have any in your pantry.
My favorite part was baking them in just 3 minutes directly on the oven rack. It’s very fun to watch them puff up, and the Mini loved watching these bake. The oven has to be extremely hot (500 degrees F!), so I was sure to strap her into her chair to be safe during the cooking process. You can use a pizza stone if you have one, but the oven rack worked just fine and I didn’t have any baking sheets to wash.
These were amazing stuffed with yummy baked falafel and served on the side with a fresh Greek salad. They are also amazing fresh from the oven, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. I’m excited to make mini pita pizzas with the leftovers this week for lunch and to try out new fillings.
Soft & Fluffy Whole Wheat Pita Bread
(adapted from Gourmet, 2003)
makes 8, 6-inch pita loaves
- 1 (1/4-ounce) package instant (rapid rise) dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F)
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour, plus additional for kneading
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl or the bowl an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook . Whisk 1/4 cup bread flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour into yeast mixture until smooth and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes, or until doubled.
If using a stand mixer, add the remaining flours, water, salt, and oil to the mixing bowl and set on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until a smooth, elastic dough forms. If mixing by hand, add the remaining ingredients, stir until just combined, and turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding additional bread flour if needed to prevent sticking. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a clean, well oiled large bowl, covered with plastic wrap to rise for 1 hour.
Turn dough onto a well floured surface and knead to release air. Divide dough into 8 equal portions, shaping them into balls. Roll each ball out into an even 6 to 7 inch round. Cover pita rounds with clean, lint-free towels and let rise for an additional 30 minutes before baking.
While pitas are rising, prepare the oven. Remove all but 1 oven rack, and set it on the lowest rack setting. Preheat the oven to 500°F.
When the oven is ready and the pitas have risen, transfer 2 to 4 directly onto the oven rack. Bake 2 minutes, flip and bake an additional 1-2 minutes until just lightly browned. Transfer baked pitas onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before stacking on clean kitchen towels. Be careful, as the puffed pitas will release hot steam as they flatten. Continue to bake remaining pitas as directed.