Pitta Bread

Forget the limp, soggy, sad apologies out of a supermarket packet. I do not care what spices and flavours they add. Nothing matches the glory of a simple pitta, puffed up and fresh from the oven.

And they are easy – just as long as your oven is really, really hot before you pop them in, so that they puff up.

Ingredients

  • By weight
    • 1½lb/675g strong flour (white, wholemeal, or a mixture to taste)
    • 2½ tsp salt
    • 2½ tsp dried yeast
    • ¾ pint/450ml warm water
    • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • By cup
    • 6 cups strong flour (white, wholemeal, or a mixture to taste)
    • 2½ tsp salt
    • 2½ tsp dried yeast
    • 2 cups warm water
    • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Method #1

  • Add the yeast to the tepid water and leave on one side for about 10 minutes.
  • Mix the flour, salt, and oil in a bowl. Make a well, and add the yeast mixture. Work into a soft dough – you may need to add extra flour or water.
  • Turn out on to a floured surface, and knead well until the dough is supple, soft, and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, work into flattish balls, and place on baking sheets; cover, and leave to rise until they have doubled in size (at least an hour).

 

Method #2 (using a sponge)

  • Mix together in a bowl 1 cup of the water, 2 cups of the flour, and 1/8 teaspoon yeast – yes, that tiny quantity! You are making a sponge. Do it before you go off to work, and leave it in the kitchen for about 8 hours, covered with clingfilm.
  • Add the remaining flour (keep back about half a cup), the salt, the second cup of water (lukewarm), and the yeast. Work into a soft dough – you may well need to add extra flour or water.
  • Turn out on to a floured surface, and knead well until the dough is supple, soft, and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, work into flattish balls, and place on baking sheets; cover, and leave to rise until they have doubled in size (at least an hour).

 

Making the breads

  • Take each ball, and roll into an oval, about 1/8 inch/¼ cm thick; lay on lightly floured tea towels, and cover again. This takes space – but you now need to let them rise until they are slightly puffy; at least another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go – 250C/500F/Gas Mark 9, or as near as you can get. Warm 2 baking sheets (lightly greased and floured) in the oven.
  • Place two pittas on each warmed baking sheet and pop into the oven for 4-6 minutes. They do not need to brown – just to puff up into great steam-filled balloons of gorgeous bread. Don’t be tempted to open the oven more than absolutely necessary – you risk the pittas collapsing.
  • When they are ready, remove, and either:-
    • place them on a wire rack to cool to just warm, and wrap in a tea towel so they stay soft;
    • or puncture the tops to let the steam escape, and allow them to cool and crispen slightly on the wire rack, for using immediately.
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