This sourdough pita bread recipe is so easy to make and requires just a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand.
To make pita bread all you need to do is mix up this simple dough, let it rise, roll it out, bake it, and enjoy your freshly made pita bread. When it is baked pita bread puffs up creating an open pocket in the middle that is perfect for stuffing with a variety of fillings.
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Growing up I always thought I didn’t like pita bread. My mom would buy and use it for sandwiches, but I always thought it was dry and pretty flavorless. Until I started making my own.
Almost a year ago I started making my own sourdough flatbread and it tastes amazing. I haven’t purchased store-bought flatbread since.
I started wondering how recipes for flatbread and pita bread differed that allow this magical pocket to form inside of pita bread. So I started researching.
What is the difference between pita and Flatbread?
- Does not include dairy
- Includes yeast
- May or may not include fat
- Made into a round shape
- Baked in an oven or heated in a skillet
- Drier pocket bread
- Contains yogurt or milk
- Often contains fat
- Teardrop or oval shape
- Lightly crisped bubbly exterior and chewy interior
- Traditionally cooked in a tandoor
Why does pita bread form a pocket?
As the dough rests, the yeast feeds on the sugars found in flour. As they feed, they release chemicals and gases like carbon dioxide and ethanol, which form small bubbles in the dough causing it to rise. When handling and rolling the dough into rounds you want to be careful to preserve as many of these bubbles as possible.
When the dough is placed in a hot oven these bubbles expand rapidly creating a pocked inside of the pita bread.
Sourdough pita bread ingredients
All-Purpose Flour: No special flours are necessary for pita bread. All-purpose flour will work just fine.
Salt: Salt is found in almost every baked good because it helps increase the flavor of all of the other ingredients. For my recipes, I use kosher salt. Specifically, Morton kosher salt because that is the brand most readily available in grocery stores near me.
Yeast: Sourdough discard isn’t usually strong enough to provide adequate leavening. Adding additional yeast will provide the necessary leavening to help form a pita’s signature pocket.
Sourdough Discard: The sourdough discard adds a slight tang to the pita. The older your discard is the tangier it will be. Sourdough discard can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Over time, acid will build up breaking down the gluten in your sourdough discard. The discard can still be used, but it will be very acidic with a strong tangy flavor that might be overwhelming.
Sourdough Tip: Keep a glass jar in your refrigerator to store your sourdough discard. Continue adding to it until you have enough to make your chosen sourdough discard recipe.
Water: You will want to use water that is at least 70°F. I usually shoot for water that is closer to 100°F especially in the winter when my kitchen is a little cooler. You could use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water but I usually just dip a finger into water to test the temperature.
The average body temperature is 98.6°F. If the water fills neutral or slightly warm I know I am close to my desired temperature.
Olive Oil: Some recipes don’t use any fat. But I find just a little olive oil gives the pita bread a better texture.
Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales make baking faster and neater. Accuracy matters in baking. Scales are more precise than measuring cups. Too much flour or not enough sugar can dramatically change a recipe. The most accurate way to bake is to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume.
A kitchen scale also reduces the number of dishes you will need to wash because you are measuring each ingredient directly from the container into the mixing bowl without the use of measuring cups.
This scale from OXO is the one I use after it was recommended by Alton Brown. What makes this scale great is the display pulls out to make viewing measurements easier when using a large bowl.
Rubber spatula: For folding batters together, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortable in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bake ware.
Cast Iron Skillet or Pizza Stone: A cast iron skillet or pizza stone is placed inside the oven while it preheats. They will absorb the heat and quickly transfer it to the dough causing it to puff up. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet or pizza stone, you can also use a baking sheet. You may need to wait a bit longer in between batches of pita bread because a baking sheet will not retain heat as well as cast iron or ceramic.
Parchment Paper: Parchment paper has been treated with silicone to make it nonstick and grease- and moisture-resistant. Using parchment paper under your pita bread makes it easier to transfer it in and out of the hot oven.
Sourdough pita bread recipe
Mix the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Add the sourdough discard, water, and oil.
Stir with a spatula until a shaggy dough forms.
Why do doughs start out shaggy? When you first begin to mix dough together it has very little gluten developed. The more a dough is mixed and kneaded the more gluten is formed and the smoother the dough becomes.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth, about 2 minutes.
Let the dough rise. Place the dough in a clean bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil, turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or use one of these reusable silicone lids that come in several sizes and stretch to cover a variety of bowls. and leave it in a warm place to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Portion the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch it down. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Cover the balls of dough with a kitchen towel and let them rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out each ball. Flatten the first ball and using a rolling pin roll it out into a 6-inch circle. When rolling the dough out you want to do so gently to avoid forcing all of the air out. Once you have rolled the dough out transfer it to one of the sheets of parchment paper. Roll the remaining balls out and let them all rest for 15 minutes.
Bake the pitas. Transfer the rounds (parchment paper and all) to your Cast Iron Skillet or Pizza Stone. The size of your vessel will determine how many you can cook at one time. Bake for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the pitas to a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. The steam softens the pitas and gives them the perfect texture. Repeat the baking process with the remaining pitas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, after mixing the dough cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to a day. The cooler temperatures will slow down the rising process. When your ready to to bake the pita bread remove the dough from the refrigerator and proceed with the remaining instructions.
If your oven is not hot enough or if your sheet pan or baking stone is not preheated the pitas won’t puff. Having thin spots in the pita dough may also cause it to not puff.
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How to store pita bread
Pita bread is best eaten on the day it is baked. The older pita bread is the drier it will be.
Pita bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
Pita bread can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to three months.
How to reheat pita bread
Wrap a single pita in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for fifteen seconds.
Wrap the pitas in foil and bake at 350°F for 5-10 minutes.
Heat pitas for about 30 seconds on each side in a skillet over medium heat.
- If your kitchen is chilly, turn your oven on low for about one minute. Turn the oven off and place the bowl of dough inside to rise.
- If you don’t have instant yeast, you can substitute active-dry yeast. Simply sprinkle it over the warm water, and let it stand for 15 minutes. Then proceed with the recipe.
- When using a cast iron skillet to bake the pitas, invert it so that you don’t have to navigate the sides when moving the pita bread back and forth.
Here are a few more sourdough discard recipes to try:
Thanks for Reading!
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