When I did my experimenting with sourdough (starter and loaf) at the end of last year I became a little obsessed with reading about different kinds of bread; how they are all made, the differences in each process and the origins and stories behind them.
My main question that I desperately needed answered was how pita bread gets the big bubble of air in the middle, that convenient little pocket we all use to stuff in our favourite ingredients.
Surprisingly it has nothing to do with a cleverly shaped or hollowed out wheel of dough but it actually is all on the way it’s cooked.
Similar to the way a naan bread is speckled with charred air bubbles from the immense heat of the oven they are cooked in, the expansion of a pita bread comes from the heat of the pan or oven they’re cooked in. Essentially, as the active yeast begins to rise, the water within the dough begins evaporating – splitting the dough in half as it tries to escape, forming the helpful hollow we find so useful.
And this is how easy they are to make:
1 cup of warm water
2 teaspoons of instant yeast
2 ½ cups of flour
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 teaspoons of olive oil
Step one: mix it all together.
Step two: knead I for five minutes.
Step three: place in a bow, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for an hour.
Step four: divide into eight equally sized discs, a bit like a UFO.
(Note: step 3.5 should be heat the oven to 240°C with a tray in to heat as well)
Only once the oven is hot enough should you even think about cooking your pita breads, if it isn’t hot enough then they won’t balloon up and you may as well have just made bread rolls.
Keep an eye on them: they will only need about 3 minutes – oh, the beauty of a hot oven!
They are best served hot, but delicious at room temperature too. I smeared mine with roast pepper hummus and stuffed them with pomegranate meatballs and fresh spinach. But to be completely honest, I would have eaten them plain, that’s how good they are.