Pita ‘breads’ get the name from Greek ‘pitta’. Though it has roots in prehistoric Arab flatbreads, food historians believe that the now popular “Pocket Pita” was developed later.
The Pita is one of my favourite breads. It is healthy, minimalistic, quick and extremely versatile. The fillings can be as per your choice: falafel, salads, sauteed vegetables, cheese, patties or kebabs and what have you! They go great with hummus, hung curd dips and any fresh sauces. You can store them in the fridge or freeze them for later use.
Pitas are baked at very high temperature, say 230 to 240 degrees celsius. The water evaporates quickly and our Pitas become puffed. On cooling the pockets stay that way.
The proving time for rolled Pitas is about 15 minutes and the baking time is just about 5 minutes. You can make them thin or thick. Leftover Pita breads can be cut into triangles and baked again with some herbs and spices and dash of olive oil for about 10 minutes at 170 degrees to make delicious Pita crisps.
- Whole wheat flour – 1cup (140 grams)
- Maida – 1 cup (120 grams)
- Yeast – 1 tsp
- Water – ¾ th cup (about 200 ml)
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1tsp
- Olive oil – 2tbsp
Dough for softer breads.
In all the bread recipes, to make soft and less dense breads, the key is to make soft dough and have more hydration (i.e. the liquid content). The general rule is that hydration should be 50% to 60% (i.e. if flour is 100 grams, liquid should be 50g to 60g, or 50ml to 60ml).
Remember, while using wholewheat flour (which is less refined and absorbs more liquid), the breads improve with more hydration. In my recipes, I keep hydration upto 70%.
Do remember to include all wet ingredients such as oil, butter, milk, water etc. in the liquid content that you add to the flour.
Mix all the dry ingredients and sift the flour well, as aeration helps in baking well structured breads.
Add the wet ingredients gradually, stir well. Knead well for 10 minutes or so. Enjoy the temporary mess — the dough will become more stable with the yeast feeding on sugars in the flour. Keep kneading
Keep kneading the dough; resist adding flour. It will take shape.
Knead, stretch and fold the dough on itself (like folding a sheet of paper in half), for about 10 minutes for gluten to develop properly. Add some flour or olive oil to make the dough soft and smooth, as needed.
After the dough becomes smooth, start molding the dough in a large ball. As shown in the clip, place the ball on the kneading surface and drag it towards yourself. Repeat this a few times.
Place the ball in a large greased bowl (preferably a glass bowl). Cover and keep the bowl in a dark and warm place. The fermentation process will double the dough in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough. The dough should not over ferment (i.e. the dough should not rise more than double its original size, else it then sinks).
In my experience fermentation time in an Indian kitchen in warm weather would be around 45 minutes to 1 hour. In cool weather, it’s about 1&½ to 2 hours.
Gently take the dough out from the bowl. Because of the greasing it should slide out. Do not pull it out else you disturb the activity of the yeast. Again gently deflate the dough with your fingertips — I call it dimpling.
Once deflated, pull the dough from the edges towards the center, so that the smooth side is out (see the clip). Place it seam side down. Partition into smaller balls to roll into Pita breads (like our pooris). They can be round or oval.
Bake at 230 to 240 degrees for 5 minutes. Let the breads cool, and see the ‘magic’ pockets open up.
And that’s it! Don’t worry if your pitas have not puffed up completely. You should still be able to cut them in half and see the pocket.
You can try Pita with different stuffings, dips and sauces. Have a go at making these and share your experience in the comments.