Perhaps posting a homemade pita bread recipe on Christmas Eve makes no sense. I could have chosen a more fitting recipe like, say, a Christmas cookie. Or a yule log. Or chocolate dipped anything. But it is still 2020—for one more week only, thank goodness. So why serve the usual milk and cookies to Santa tonight? Not much else has been usual this year. Besides, Santa might welcome this pita bread and some savory baba ghanouj after all the sweets.
Make the pita dough in advance, if desired
I love the convenience of this dough. Once you have proofed it, if you don’t feel like baking all of it (or any of it), you can store as little (or as much) of the dough in the refrigerator for up to five days.
When you crave pitas, simply tear off a few hunks of dough from your stash, roll them, bake them and enjoy incredibly fresh and soft, delicious pitas. You’ll essentially have refrigerator dough on hand but with none of the artificial ingredients or plastic food packaging, which may be toxic.
In addition to convenience, refrigeration renders satisfyingly chewy dough. You may want to make this dough a day in advance for the chewy texture alone.
Two ways to bake the pita bread
Bake these in the oven or on the stove top.
In the oven, the pitas puff up like giant pillows. Place an ungreased metal baking sheet, cast iron pans or a pizza stone in the oven while it heats.
For more of a pocketless pita, cook the pitas in a pan on the stove, where they tend to puff up much less, if at all. My daughter Charlotte, master hummus maker, prefers to eat these pitas with her dips.
Homemade Pita Bread
- 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110°F)
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing the bowl and for frying if cooking the pitas on the stove
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided plus more as needed and for rolling out the dough
- ¾ cup cup whole wheat flour
- Combine the warm water, sugar, salt, olive oil and yeast in a large bowl. Add half of the all-purpose flour and all of the whole-wheat flour and stir until well combined. Add the remaining all-purpose flour, half a cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Form the dough into a ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour or more as needed. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Wipe out the bowl and oil it lightly. Place the dough in it and turn it over to lightly coat the entire ball. Cover the bowl with a plate. Let the dough rest for 1 hour in a warm spot, until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough. If you won't bake the pitas immediately, store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Because the dough may double in size in the refrigerator, choose an appropriately sized container. (When you want to bake, remove as much dough as you’d like.)
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll into balls between your palms. With a rolling pin, roll the balls into 7-inch disks, between ⅛- and ¼-inch thick. As you work, add flour to the work surface as necessary to ensure that the dough doesn't stick.
- Place a baking sheet, cast-iron pans or a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Once the oven has heated, arrange a few of the rolled-out disks onto the hot surface, at least 2 inches apart. Do this by placing a disk on the palm of your hand and flipping your hand to drop the disk onto the surface, being careful not to burn yourself. The pitas will puff up almost immediately. Bake for 1 minute, flip over with tongs and continue to bake for 1 more minute. Remove the pitas from the baking surface and place them in a towel-lined basket or bowl to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.
Stove top method
- Heat a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat and brush on a very thin layer of oil. You'll know the pan is hot enough to cook the pitas when it sizzles after you've sprinkled on a few drops of water.
- Place a disk in the hot pan. Cook until you see bubbles begin to form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the disk over and cook for 1 minute. It should begin to puff up a bit. Flip over again and cook for 1 more minute on the other side. Transfer to a towel-lined basket or bowl to keep warm. Continue to cook the remaining pitas, brushing a very thin layer of oil onto the pan in between cooking.