Why are pitas so much better than regular bread?
A wrap on a pita feels way more fun and fancy than a sandwich, even with the same fillings.
According to Mashed, an online culinary publication, pitas are actually one of the world’s oldest breads, with origins dating back at least 4,000 years to the Middle East. While there is a general history of this flatbread, its exact origins are difficult to trace as it dates back so far.
Early versions were made using the sourdough method, leaving about a pita dough to ferment with yeast in air until it was time to make the next batch, according to Mashed. Now we can use yeast from the grocery store’s baking aisle.
Pitas, like many other foods, made their way to the United States — with Greek immigrants in the mid-20th century, according to Mashed.
Pitas are one of many flatbreads found around the world. Pitas are defined by the air bubble created during cooking.
The easiest way to cook pitas is on a dry, flat surface like a flat griddle, electric griddle, or even a lefse griddle, but there are recipes that use the oven.
It is important to ensure that the cooking temperature is hot enough. If it’s too cool, the pitas will still be tasty, but lack their signature pocket.
We stuff all the good stuff into this bag, like falafel or gyros meat, or just some garlic hummus.
To make sure these come out, there’s a lot of waiting. There’s the initial rise time of two hours, the ball rest time of 30 minutes, and then the roll out rest time of 10 to 30 minutes. But all that downtime is worth it for the perfect pita pita.
Use these hours to prepare and cook fillings.
I love that different types of bread are all roughly the same—yeast, flour, water, salt—but different mixing methods, different additions like eggs or oil, and different rising times can make completely different breads.
With origins as ancient as this, pitas are the simplest combination of flour, yeast, water, sugar, oil, and salt.
Not only are pitas the perfect vessel for a gyros, but they also work well as bread on a standard sandwich or as a crust for pizza—just add a few toppings and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted.
Of course, as with anything, it’s acceptable to buy pitas at the store. They can usually be found in the bread aisle or deli aisle, depending on the store.
But taking the time to mix and match batter at home just adds another layer to a meal’s specialty.
- 1 cup of lukewarm water.
- 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour to start.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast along with 1 cup flour. Whisk everything together and set aside for 15 minutes. The mixture should be bubbling and foaming.
- Add the olive oil and salt, along with 1½ cups flour. Mix on low speed with a dough hook attachment until the dough is soft and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. If it sticks, add flour, an additional 1/4 cup at a time.
- Knead on low for five to six minutes. Take the dough out of the bowl, turn it out onto a floured work surface and form it into a ball.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and add the batter. Turn it over to brush with oil and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two hours or until doubled in size.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a floured work surface. Form the dough into a large ball and cut into eight pieces with a sharp knife. We’re guessing roughly here, but if you want everything to be even, use a food scale to weigh each piece of dough to make sure they’re even.
- Form each piece of dough into a small ball, pull the dough from the sides and tuck the ends under the base. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on the floured work surface and cover with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- After resting, roll out the balls of dough into flat and 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 as it cooks.
- Brush a cast-iron skillet with a little olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the flatbread dough to the pan and cook until the bread puffs up and the bottom is browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook for another two minutes. While it’s ideal for the flatbread to begin to puff and fill with hot air to get the perfect pockets, this isn’t necessary or always expected. Wrap the cooked bread in a clean tea towel while you continue cooking the rest of the pita to keep it warm.
- Best served immediately. If not, the pita will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 to 7 days.
Recipe adapted from Sweet Simple Vegan at https://sweetsimplevegan.com/homemade-pita-bread/.