(Mediterranean pocket bread)
Pita bread is common throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Versions of this simple round loaf are found from Northern Africa to as far east as India.
The popularity of pita is said to have been spread eastward and westward by the conquering armies of Alexander the Great.
Called pita or pitta in Greece and many countries of the Levant, these pocketed loaves are also known as khoubz araby, or Arab bread. The Turks call it pide. The Egyptian name is aish.
Makes six 6-inch pita breads
- Water, warm (110°F) -- 1/4 cup
- Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
- Sugar -- 1/4 teaspoon
- Flour -- 3 cups
- Water -- 3/4 cup
- Olive oil -- 1 tablespoon
- Salt -- 1 teaspoon
- Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
- In a small bowl mix together the 1/4 cup of warm water, yeast and sugar. Set aside until yeast is active and foaming, about 10 minutes.
- Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl and add the flour, 1/2 cup of the water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until an elastic and kneadable dough is formed. Remove to a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 8 to 10 minutes until smooth.
- Wipe a large bowl with a little olive oil, place the dough in the bowl and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Punch the dough down with your fist and knead it briefly. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled again, another 20 to 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Roll out each ball into a 6- to 7-inch round, taking care not to pierce the dough surface (or the pita won't puff). Place the rounds on a cookie sheet, brush each generously with the 1/4 cup olive oil and bake for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown and the pitas puff up.
Pita Bread Variations
- Whole-wheat pitas: Try a mixture of whole-wheat and white flour, or use all whole wheat. You may have to increase the amount of water a little.
- Brush the pita rounds with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds or zaatar spices right before you pop them in the oven if you like.
- The pitas are even better when baked on a preheated baking or pizza stone. Skip the baking sheet and throw the dough rounds right onto the hot stone.
- Pita can be cut in two and the pocket halves stuffed with shawarma.
- Cut pita into triangles or tear off pieces and use it to scoop up baba ghanoush or hummus.