If you’ve cooked a thousand sourdough pancakes since the beginning of the pandemic in order to use up your sourdough discard and you’ve avoided buying pitas at the grocery store because you can’t find them packaged in anything but a plastic bag (and they always taste stale), then you’ll love this recipe. It calls for an entire cup of unfed sourdough discard.
The sourdough-izing formula
I base this pita recipe on the pita recipe I posted last week. I substituted 1 cup of unfed, stirred-down sourdough starter discard for a scant cup of flour and a generous ½ cup of water. This conversion works well in certain recipes that call for flour and water, such as bread, pizza, tortillas and these pitas. (Go here for more information on sourdough-izing recipes.)
Some notes on sourdough discard pita bread
- The flavor. The sourdough discard adds a tangy flavor to the pitas. The older your starter, the tangier the flavor. However, discard can add too much tang if it has sat in your refrigerator untouched for a month or longer. (My discard jar remains in my refrigerator for months and months but I regularly add discard from feedings and remove discard for baking, so my stash does turn over quickly.)
- The yeast. I think of these as a hybrid—sourdough discard for flavor and active dry yeast for leavening. If you omit the active yeast from these, you’ll end up with something more like a tortilla as the unfed sourdough discard does not contain enough bacteria and yeast to make the dough rise.
- The convenience. Like the pitas made with active dry yeast, you can refrigerate the proofed dough for up to about 5 days. When you crave pita bread, remove portions of the dough and make hot, fresh pitas very quickly.
- The texture. These puff up less than their non-sourdoughized counterparts.
- The shelf-life. To keep these fresh, wrap them up in a towel-lined basket for serving. They taste best the first day you bake them.
- The cooking time. The sourdough discard pita requires a little bit more time to bake—either on the stove or in the oven—than the original version (about an extra minute).
Sourdough Discard Pita Bread
- 1 cup 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
- 1 cup unfed sourdough starter discard brought to room temperature and stirred down to remove any bubbles
- 2 ½ cups 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. Stir in the sourdough starter discard. 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 2 minutes, 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. Fold the towel over the pitas to keep them 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 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. Place the pitas in a towel-lined basket or bowl. Fold the towel over the pitas to keep them warm. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.