This didn’t start with me. It started in Jordan sometime in the 1940s, or maybe it was actually Palestine- and several years before that. My paternal grandmother who we called “Tata Em Saleem,” baked bread for her eleven children. Soft, puffy, and crispy rounds of pita bread that fed her family of thirteen.
When a family can’t always afford things like meat or even milk, three ingredients were easier to come by: flour, water and yeast, (a teeny bit of salt & sugar too I suppose…) My Dad’s fond memories of eating his Mom’s bread with every meal translated to our kitchen table, where no meal was complete without a few toasty rounds of bread.
In our home, pita bread (called “khubez” in Arabic,) was more of a utensil than a side dish as most things we ate were dipped. As a result, my sisters & I grew up to be proficient “dippers,” knowing how to use a piece of bread to accurately scoop up a bit of whatever delicious thing my parents had prepared.
Throughout the years I was able to taste this amazing homemade bread several times when either my Tata was visiting or one of my Aunties prepared it, but I always knew learning to bake it myself was a must. Luckily my Mom took notes on Tata’s recipe from when she visited when I was a kid, and we worked from those notes to recreate this fluffy, wonderful bread.
As far as bread recipes go, this one is pretty straightforward. Each step requires some proofing, but a couple hours of work results in the most perfect stack of puffy pitas. These are wonderful for making sandwiches, dipping, or anything else you heart desires. This recipe has officially become an heirloom for me and just maybe will for you too!
- 4½ cups all purpose flour* (plus a little more for your work surface)
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1¼- 2 cups warm water**
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook*, Stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Turn the mixer on low and add the water, about ½ cup at a time. You want to dough to be tacky, but not too sticky. You will know it is the right consistency when it sticks to the bottom of the bowl but pulls away from the sides. Add additonal water as needed. Let the machine do it's magic for a few minutes until this consistency is achieved and the dough springs back when lightly pressed.
- Pour the oilve oil onto the dough and work it in with your hands. The dough will be slippery and smooth. Rub some oil onto the inside of the bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until doubled.
- When the dough is done proofing, punch it down and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to shape the dough into 8 equal-sized balls. (Or weigh them on a kitchen scale to about 5 oz each.)
- Place the balls of dough on a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean, damp, kitchen towel. Let rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 500F or as high as it will go. (The higher the better for this recipe.) Place a cookie sheet or pizza stone in the oven to get hot as well.
- On a floured surface, roll each dough ball into a round about 6 inches diameter. (1/4-1/2 inch thick) Cover rounds with the damp cloth while you finish rolling the rest.
- Let the rolled out dough rest for 20-30 minutes or until puffy.
- Carefully place 2-3 dough rounds onto the pre-heated cookie sheet or pizza stone. (You can transfer them into the oven directly or bring the cookie sheet out.)
- Bake for about 6 minutes, or until dough is puffed up, golden, and slightly crisp. Repeat with remaining dough.
You can use up to half white whole wheat flour, but will likely need more water to reach the desired consistency.
*Start with that amount of water and add more if needed.