As the evenings heat up in the summer, one of my favorite things to do for dinner is to prepare a simple, almost no-cook meal of tomatoes dressed with salt, pepper and really good olive oil, some meats and cheeses, homemade hummus or tabbouleh and good pita bread. While I love the authentic pita breads I buy at Dean’s Mediterranean Imports at Findlay Market, sometimes I like making my own pita.
Making pita bread is easy and fun, a good introduction to bread baking because it doesn’t require precise shaping or lengthy baking. In fact, my favorite way to make pita bread is to cook it on the grill, because it gets this lovely smoky taste.
These homemade pitas don’t really resemble the store-bought pocket bread that you may be used to; they’re more like chewy flatbreads, the kind you might have wrapped around gyro meat at a good Greek deli.
Give these a try this summer!
easy whole-wheat pita bread recipe
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. good olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the dough hook (or in a large bowl), whisk together water, yeast and a pinch of sugar (this feeds the yeast and starts its fermentation) to dissolve. Let sit until foamy like the head of a beer, up to 30 minutes. Add flours and olive oil and begin to mix on low speed (or with a wooden spoon). After a few seconds, sprinkle the salt over the dough and increase the mixer speed to medium. Knead dough for 5 minutes, until it is smooth and a little sticky. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a piece of waxed paper. Rub the bowl with a bit of olive oil and return the dough, turning to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot for 1 hour, up to 2, until the dough has doubled in bulk.
On a lightly floured surface (I like using a pastry cloth), divide the dough into 8 pieces and form into evenly shaped balls. Set the balls aside on a baking sheet, covered with a towel or plastic. One at a time, using as little flour as you need to prevent the dough from sticking, roll the balls into thin rounds, about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Lay the rounds between sheets of waxed paper on the baking sheet as you work. (You'll get better at the rolling as you go.)
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. It's hot enough when a few drops of water splatter and sizzle. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the skillet, and use a wadded up paper towel and tongs to wipe out the excess and leave an even film of oil. Place 1 dough round in the hot skillet; cook 1 minute. (If the round is thin enough, it should puff up like a pocket bread; if it doesn't, don't worry ... it's still delicious.) Flip the pita and cook 2 minutes more, until it's charred in spots. Lower the heat slightly if the pan gets smoky. Re-oil the pan after every 2 or 3 pitas. Alternately, you can cook the pita rounds on a well-oiled grill over medium heat, 1 minute on the first side and 2 minutes after you flip them. Serve warm.