Recipe for homemade pita bread, plus a simple trick to make it with or without pockets. Pita bread from scratch requires simple ingredients and can also be used for pita chips or pizzas.
Is there something better than homemade pita bread? I won’t deny that there are many times when I buy it frοm the store, but when I have some extra time I like to make my pita bread from scratch because just like Chef john says in his pita recipe : “this is so far superior to the stuff you get at the grocery store”.
The good thing is that you just need a few common ingredients to make your kitchen smell with the heavenly aroma of freshly baked pita. And it gets even better the moment you dip it into a bowl of homemade hummus or when you bake it in the oven with some olive oil to make crispy homemade pita chips.
Contrary to most pita recipes, Greek pita bread has no pockets. That’s the reason why I though it would be useful to show you my way of making pita with and without pockets (there’s only one thing you have to do differently). But don’t stress much if you want them with pockets and they turn out without or the other way around. The taste is the same. It’s better to use your energy and try to find a good quality flour (whole wheat flour will also do) which will have a big impact on the taste, rather than trying to achieve the perfect pocket.
The ingredients for homemade pita bread:
- all-purpose flour or bread flour (you can also use whole wheat flour)
- yeast (both fresh yeast and dry yeast will do)
- olive oil
- sugar (optional, but it helps to feed the yeast and enhances the flavor of the pita)
How do you make pita bread from scratch?
The process of making homemade pita bread is very easy and is broken down into the following steps:
- First mix the yeast with the water, the sugar, and a little bit of flour and wait for some foam to appear. This will show you that the yeast is active.
- Then, add the salt and the rest of the flour and knead until a smooth ball of dough is formed.
- Let the dough rest in a warm place until doubled in volume.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and roll them out into discs.
- For Greek-style pitas, cook the discs immediately. For pitas with pockets let the discs rest for 30 minutes or until puffed-up and then cook on a hot surface. A cast iron skillet or a pan with a heavy bottom is ideal.
What makes pita bread puff up?
For pita bread with pockets it is best to let the pita rest for 30 minutes in a warm place. This will give the yeast the opportunity to eat some of the sugars in the dough and convert them into carbon dioxide and ethanol. The carbon dioxide which is trapped into the dough will expand during cooking causing the dough to rise and puff up.
Another factor is a very hot cooking surface like a cast iron pan, a griddle or a heavy-bottomed frying pan. The hot cooking surface will cause the moisture inside the pita to evaporate, creating a large pocket in the center of the pita.
If you choose to bake the pita in the oven, your oven should be very hot. When the pita is in the oven, the bottom and the upper part of the bread become hotter and at the same time steam is forming in the inside. The steam pushes the two surfaces and tears them apart resulting in the bread to puff up. Watch this video on how to bake pita bread in the oven.
Pita bread with or without pockets?
For me, it really has no difference if my pita has pockets or not. The taste is the same (almost…). The only thing that changes is the texture. Pita without pockets (Greek pita) is somewhat fluffier, and it’s more charred because more surface is in contact with the pan. If you like these charred spots (I love them) then this is the type of pita you should choose to make. Greek pita bread is perfect for gyro, souvlaki, shawarma and these pitacos (minced beef pita bread tacos).
Pita with pockets is chewier and has less charred spots because when it puffs up, less surface is in contact with the cooking pan. It’s best for falafel because the pocket is the perfect cradle for these little chickpea balls.
What do you eat pita bread with?
You really can’t go wrong whatever you choose to eat your pita with! I’m a bread person, so I’m totally fine eating it plain, especially when it’s still warm from the pan. A light sprinkle of dried oregano pairs beautifully with the flavor of olive oil and the taste of the charred spots on the surface of the pita. Some other options are:
- A Greek meze platter
- Labneh (a delicious fresh cheese made from yogurt)
- Baked feta with tomatoes and peppers
- Minty lamb kebabs
- Yellow split pea puree (Greek fava)
- With PB and jelly or almond butter, cinnamon and honey.
- Hummus and other dips.
- Make individual Greek pizzas using pita bread as the base
- Greek fish roe salad (taramosalata)
- soups and curries
Should pita bread be heated?
Room temperature pita is perfectly fine but it’s even better when it’s warm. If your pita gets cold or if it is one or two days old, then you can heat it briefly in the oven, on a pan or the microwaves. This will freshen it up and will also restore some of its elasticity.
How to heat pita bread in the oven: Wrap the pitas with a lightly dump kitchen towel and bake at 300 °F (150 °C) for 5 minutes.
How to heat pita bread in the pan: Lightly grease the surface of a non-stick pan and heat it well over high heat. Cook the pita for 1-2 minutes for each side.
How to heat pita bread in the microwaves: Wrap the pitas with a lightly dump kitchen towel and microwave on low/medium power for 1-2 minutes.
Why does my pita not puff?
The cooking surface is not hot enough. You need a lot of steam in a short period of time to make the pita puff. If the cooking surface is not very hot then the steam will not be strong enough to create a pocket.
You didn’t let the dough rest for enough time. Resting time will give the yeast the chance to work and produce the needed carbon dioxide which will expand the dough during cooking.
How to make homemade pita chips
Making homemade pita chips is easier than you think. You only need a few pitas and some good quality olive oil.
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
- Cut each pita in half, and then cut each half into 3-4 triangles (or, if you like square chips cut each pita into strips and each strip into squares).
- Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil (1 tablespoon per 2 pitas is enough). Mix well to combine.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the pita chips are golden brown and crispy. Stir once during baking.
Plain, freshly baked pita chips are amazing but if you need to spice things up you can add some oregano, dried onion flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper, za’atar, everything bagel seasoning or any other spice you feel is appropriate. For sweet pita chips, bake them with the olive oil and then toss them in a bowl with some sugar and cinnamon.
- 1 cup (245 grams) lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups (330 grams) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- about 1/2 cup of flour for kneading
- olive oil for kneading and cooking about 2-3 tablespoons
Proof the yeast: Transfer the water, the sugar, the yeast and a little bit of flour to a bowl. Mix well and wait for some foam to appear. This will show you that the yeast is active.
Make the dough: Add the salt and the rest of the flour to the dough and knead well until a smooth ball of dough is formed. You can do this by hand or use a stand mixer.
Rest the dough in a warm place until doubled in volume.
Form the pitas: Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and roll them out into 1/4-1/8 inches thick (about 0.5 cm) discs.
Cook: For Greek-style pitas, preheat a cast iron pan over high heat and grease it with olive oil. Cook the pitas about two minutes from each side. If you notice that they're puffing up, press them down with a spatula.
For pitas with pockets let the discs rest for 30 minutes and then cook them for two minutes each side.
- You can replace half of the flour with whole wheat flour.
- Both fresh yeast and dry yeast will do. I’ve used dry yeast for this recipe because it’s easier to find and to store but if you can find fresh yeast the flavor will be better (1 teaspoon of dry yeast equals 0.3 ounces / 8 grams of fresh yeast).
- When you roll out Greek pitas it’s best to use olive oil. When you roll out pitas with pockets it’s best to use extra flour.
- Grease the pan with olive oil before cooking each pita bread.
- To bake the pitas in the oven: Preheat your oven to 475 °F (245 °C) and bake on the lower rack for about 4 minutes (2 minutes each side) or until golden brown.
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