How to Make Pita
We love pita, all pita, but homemade pita is a magical, revelatory food. In the oven, it puffs up like a pillow, and fills the kitchen with a glorious smell — yeasty, lightly charred, and reminiscent of pizza dough. Out of the oven, it’s unexpectedly, delightfully even, soft, and chewy.
That texture really came into play when we filled the pita with chicken shawarma and creamy tzatziki. The homemade pita was happy to play the role of pocket — a super light companion and carryall for the other ingredients, not an overbearing bread boss.
The shawarma is lovely in the pita, but you could stuff it with anything: peanut butter, tuna fish salad and cheddar cheese, hummus, or pizza toppings. It’s also stellar toasted. Fill that capacious pocket with salty butter!
Yield: 8 pita
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup, plus 1 Tbsp warm water (115º – 120º)
1 tsp yeast
1 lb bread flour, about 3 ½ cups
1 Tbsp shortening
½ Tbsp salt
Preheat the oven to 450º, and set a pizza stone on the bottom shelf of the oven.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and warm water, and then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set the bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until the mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread flour, shortening, and salt using the dough hook and mix for 10 to 15 seconds.
Once the yeast mixture has bloomed, add it to the flour mixture with the mixer on low speed.
Increase the speed to medium-low and mix for 2 to 3 minutes until a firm, semi-tacky dough has formed.
Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for one hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down, and allow to rise again for 30 minutes. This second rise allows the dough to develop — it'll be more elastic and make fluffier pita.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 8 even pieces, using a dough cutter or bench scraper, and then roll into balls. Note: Be careful to cut rather than tear the dough. Torn dough will not balloon up the way cut dough will.
Press each ball into a flat disk with a rolling pin. Roll to a 7-inch circle about the thickness of a quarter, dusting with more flour if necessary.
Transfer to the hot pizza stone one or two at a time and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they have ballooned and the bottoms are golden brown in spots. Flip each pita: let them touch the stone briefly (10 seconds), and then remove them from the heat.
Transfer to a cooling rack and serve.