One of the best aromas in the world is the scent of fresh bread baking in the oven. The smells permeates the kitchen and you can’t wait to take that first bite, so warm and satisfying in your mouth.
Making your own bread sounds like a daunting task with lots of ways for it to go wrong, but it is simpler than you think. If you’re a beginner baker, pita breads are a perfect place to start. You’ll learn all the basics of rolling and kneading, and how yeast reacts with flour and sugar to create light, chewy rounds. In just one afternoon, you can make homemade pita and watch the dough rise, right before your eyes.
Here are a few tips and a simple recipe to get your started.
Focus on Flour
Choosing the right type of flour for your recipe is essential for successful loaves. Each types of flour has different amounts of starch and proteins, which will affect the elasticity of your dough.
Pita bread is best made with a mix of whole wheat flour and bread flour, which has a higher protein content — an important part of yeast breads.
What You Knead
A stand mixer can be your best friend when making bread. Bread dough needs a lot of kneading to develop that soft, fluffy texture and a mixer with a bread hook will do the job perfectly.
If you are feeling tough, you can knead by hand but you’ll need a little extra time and energy.You’ll know the dough is done when it is stretchy and resembles elastic bands. This means the gluten proteins are bonded and the dough is ready to rise.
The key to making perfectly round pitas is to divide your dough into equal pieces and then twirl and fold them into a ball on a lightly floured surface. This will give you soft, round pieces of dough with the signature air pocket in the middle. Don’t worry about being too delicate with your dough. Baking queen, Anna Olson says that anytime you handle, roll or knead your dough it helps develop a richer flavour with better texture.
1-3/4 cup warm water (110°F/43 °C)
1-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1-3/4 cup bread flour
1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1. Place all of the ingredient into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead on low speed for a minute to incorporate the ingredients and then increase the speed one level and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, to mix by hand, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until too tough to do so and then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead until elastic (try adding as little extra flour as possible while kneading) about 7 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic and let rise for an hour (the dough will not double in size).
2. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide into six 150 g pieces (using a scale is best for evenly sized pita). Shape the dough pieces into rounds (try to not use flour for dusting), cover with a tea towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
3. With a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 8-inches (20 cm) across (if the dough springs back when rolling, just set them aside 5 minutes and finish rolling them to the right size). Cover with a tea towel and let rest 20 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 °F (235 °C) and place 2 baking trays in the oven to heat. Remove a baking tray from the oven, dust with flour and place 2-3 pita rounds on it. Immediately return this to the oven and repeat with the second tray. Bake the pita for 5-6 minutes (they will puff up like a balloon!) and then carefully remove them (they will let off steam if pressed) from the tray to an open tea towel. Cover the pitas with the towel to deflate them and let them cool (this will soften them so they are tender and the pocket will open easily).
5. While fresh pitas are delicious on their own, we have a few tasty ideas for how you can enjoy them throughout the week.
Give turkey breast a dose of flavour with a flavourful blend of fennel, coriander, paprika and garlic powder.
Make this rich, savoury sauteed mushroom dish while your pita is rising and eat it for lunch all week.
You’ll love the toothsome, chewy texture of wild rice, especially when paired with fresh chives and leftover chicken.
Toast up your pita bread into crispy chips, Ina Garten-style and serve with your favourite dip as a quick and wholesome snack.
Turn your fresh pitas into instant pizzas on the busiest weeknights.