Now that’s what I call a big ol’ pile of fresh-baked goodness. For a summertime mezze (Middle Eastern appetizer) party, homemade pitas can’t be beat. Sheesh! There I go getting all Martha Stewart on you again. Plain old chicken salad sandwiches work great on them, too.
One of the really nifty things about pitas is that you don’t need a good oven — or even an oven at all — to make them. They work in everything from a brick oven to a cast iron skillet. Which means there’s really no excuse not to try them. Start by combining your ingredients, save for the water, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle.
Stir the ingredients on low, then add the water, stirring about 30 seconds more until the ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic and a somewhat sticky. Can you do all this by hand? Of course, yes.
Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl and let rise for an hour, or put it in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. If you decide on the latter (and I recommend it), it’s a good idea to de-gas the dough by pressing down on it with your palm once or twice in the first 4-6 hours of chilling.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge (here it’s got my big ol’ hand print on it), and remove to a floured board.
Cut the dough into nine 3-ounce pieces…
…and roll them into balls.
Let the dough balls rest for 20-30 minutes, then apply your pin and roll.
You want a rough circle about seven inches across. Once rolled, let the dough circles rest about 10 – 15 minutes.
All you need to do now is apply them to a hot baking surface. That can be a baking stone in a 550 oven, a cast iron skillet that’s been pre-heated over a medium-low flame, or— ehem — a big brick oven. Guess which one I’m using? Simply place the dough circle on your device…
…and after a minute or two — depending on the heat — it’ll puff up into a little pillow. Once it’s puffed, you can turn it. I recommend it for brick oven bakers (since brick ovens are so hot…use the longest tongs you own) as well as for skillet bakers. Home oven bakers can simply let them bake without turning to the desired degree of doneness.
If you plan to split the pitas to make pocket sandwiches, I suggest a very light bake, until there’s just a hint of brown on the bottom. Otherwise, bake them to whatever degree you wish. Obviously I like mine a little more well done. The brick oven chars them if I’m not careful, though soot-dusted pitas are their own rustic pleasure. You really can’t go wrong.