Pita Bread Help!

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Bama-Rick

Senior Cook
Joined
Dec 8, 2019
Messages
131
Location
LA, Lower Alabama aka Mobile
I occasionally make pita bread and occasionally it puffs up and makes a pocket, sometimes it doesn't. What are the secrets to consistently producing pita that always produces a pocket?
Sometimes I come out with pita bread other times I unintentionally make 7" pizza crust..
 
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The pockets are usually a sign that the dough has been left to rise for the right amount of time. You don't mention the ingredients you use, nowadays there are so many different recipes/varieties, but the doses are important. 10g fresh yeast (or 3g dried yeast) for about 500g flour (half plain flour/half manitoba). Mustn't forget to add a teaspoon of sugar to get the yeast to work well, but not together with the salt. The salt goes in with the flour after having mixed yeast with water, sugar, evo oil (and milk if you use it).
 
Ingredients yeast, flour, water, olive oil, and salt.
3g of yeast
250ml of water
700ml of flour
5ml salt
30ml olive oil
Mix yeast, 250ml of flour with the water. Let rest for 15 minutes until flour mixture show bubbles. Now add the salt and olive oil. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a shaggy mass (at this point, the dough has little to no gluten development and just looks like a sticky mess and you can easily pull bits off). Dust with a little flour, then knead the mixture inside the bowl for about a minute to incorporate any stray bits.

Knead the dough: Dust a clean working surface with just a little bit of flour. Knead lightly for a couple minutes or so until smooth. Cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then knead again for a couple more minutes. The dough should be a little bit moist, you can help it with a little dusting of flour, but be careful not to add too much flour.

Let the dough rise. Clean the mixing bowl and coat it lightly with extra virgin olive oil and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn the dough a couple times in the bowl to coat with the olive oil. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap then lay a kitchen towel over. Put the bowl in a warm place. Leave it alone for 1 hour or until the dough rises to double its size.

Divide the dough. Deflate the dough and place it on a clean work surface. Divide the dough into 7 to 8 equal pieces and shape them into balls. Cover with a towel and leave them for 10 minutes or so to rest.

Shape the pitas. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle that's 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. It helps to lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll so that dough doesn't stick to your counter too much. (If dough starts to stick, sprinkle a tiny bit of flour). If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get going, you can be cooking one pita while rolling another, if you like). A thin pita adds to puffiness, mine were probably too thick.

This is were I think I made my mistake. I baked the bread at 425F from what I've been reading the baking temp should be 525F. Hotter is better. Bake for 5 minutes flip and bake 3-4 more minutes. Again from further reading the double should be moist, just short of sticky and the oven to be very hot, and the baking sheet preheated. What you are trying to do is cause the moisture in the dough to flash to steam almost instantly causing the pitas to expand like a balloon.

Or the pitas can be cooked on top of a shove in a very hot cast iron skillet. A skillet hot enough that when a drop of water is sprinkled on the skillet it dances across the surface evaporates within a second or so. Cook pitas two-three minutes on one side flip and cook the other side for a minute or so. Skillet "baking" is the preferred method.

I've read two dozen recipes so far and the common reasons the pitas don't balloon is the dough is too dry and the oven is too cold and the pitas are too thick. I think I made all three mistakes.
 
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I’ve had mixed results too.

IMO the only thing missing is the experience that comes with performing any routine task on a regular basis.

Being a bit more aggressive with the heat has helped but I never experience the dramatic ‘jiffy pop’ balloon that I see on YouTube videos.
 
The recipe is pretty much 1 of the 2 I use. The other one uses a bit of sugar, which I always use anyway when proofing the yeast, and some yogurt. The yogurt makes a softer, fluffier pita.

Don't add all the remaining flour at once. As noted, you want a soft, shaggy dough. You can always add flour, but not take away. Keep the dough soft but workable.

I bake at 450 F on an upside down heavy sheet pan. I turn the oven on a bit and let it heat for 10-15 minutes after it comes up to temp.

Also, I didn't see this when I looked through.

Slide your fingers under the pita and gently pick it up, then flip it top side down onto the hot stone/baking sheet, and bake for about 3 minutes. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking remaining pitas. You need to cover them with the towel so that they will steam and remain soft. They may become brittle otherwise.

I don't know why placing them on the baking sheet as above matters, but it does. You don't really need to flip because it should be already ballooned and only a very small portion will be on the sheet pan. If mine don't poof then I will flip just to get some browning. If they don't poof within the first few minutes they aren't going to later.

My success rate is generally about 80%-85%. And like @Aunt Bea wrote, experience and repetition matter. I've noticed if I don't make them for a while then they don't come out as good.

I did roll them a little smaller last time so they were a little thicker but they still poofed fine.
 
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The recipe is pretty much 1 of the 2 I use. The other one uses a bit of sugar, which I always use anyway when proofing the yeast, and some yogurt. The yogurt makes a softer, fluffier pita.

Don't add all the remaining flour at once. As noted, you want a soft, shaggy dough. You can always add flour, but not take away. Keep the dough soft but workable.

I bake at 450 F on an upside down heavy sheet pan. I turn the oven on a bit and let it heat for 10-15 minutes after it comes up to temp.

Also, I didn't see this when I looked through.

Slide your fingers under the pita and gently pick it up, then flip it top side down onto the hot stone/baking sheet, and bake for about 3 minutes. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking remaining pitas. You need to cover them with the towel so that they will steam and remain soft. They may become brittle otherwise.

I don't know why placing them on the baking sheet as above matters, but it does. You don't really need to flip because it should be already ballooned and only a very small portion will be on the sheet pan. If mine don't poof then I will flip just to get some browning. If they don't poof within the first few minutes they aren't going to later.

My success rate is generally about 80%-85%. And like @Aunt Bea wrote, experience and repetition matter. I've noticed if I don't make them for a while then they don't come put as good.

I did roll them a little smaller last time so they were a little thicker but they still poofed fine.
Did you post your two recipes/versions? If so can you post a link.
 
One thing I have learned about pita. I must make perfect circles before putting in the oven.
I roll out and cut a perfect circle. I use a bowl or something round. Make sure you lay it down in that perfect circle.
For me when it's not a perfect circle it does not pop up right.
 
I’ve had mixed results too.

IMO the only thing missing is the experience that comes with performing any routine task on a regular basis.

Being a bit more aggressive with the heat has helped but I never experience the dramatic ‘jiffy pop’ balloon that I see on YouTube videos.
I can't argue with that but I'd prefer to learn from someone else's mistakes given the price of food stuffs nowadays. I'll admit I was shocked there are no pita bread recipes on this site, given pita bread is a fairly common staple.
 
Did you post your two recipes/versions? If so can you post a


Also, I didn't see this when I looked through.

Slide your fingers under the pita and gently pick it up, then flip it top side down onto the hot stone/baking sheet, and bake for about 3 minutes. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking remaining pitas. You need to cover them with the towel so that they will steam and remain soft. They may become brittle otherwise.

I don't know why placing them on the baking sheet as above matters, but it does. You don't really need to flip because it should be already ballooned and only a very small portion will be on the sheet pan. If mine don't poof then I will flip just to get some browning. If they don't poof within the first few minutes they aren't going to later.

My success rate is generally about 80%-85%. And like @Aunt Bea wrote, experience and repetition matter. I've noticed if I don't make them for a while then they don't come out as good.

I did roll them a little smaller last time so they were a little thicker but they still poofed fine.
No, I didn't cover them with a towel. I was using them in a middle eastern salad, think Greek croutons, so I wanted them on the dry crunchy side.

I'm making pita again today. This time the dough is not as dry. When proofing them I covered the container with plastic wrap. When rolling them into balls I wet my hands to add some moisture. I kept them covered with a slightly moist towel while waiting to roll them out.. The oven with upside down cookie sheet is almost ready. I'll let everyone know how successful pita 2.0 goes.

I'm convinced the moisture content of the dough and the heat of the oven/cookie sheet are key. Like popovers you want an instant flash of internal steam to balloon the dough. At least that's my theory..
 
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Just made another batch of pita and was somewhat more successful with about 50% really ballooning. The others puffed up half way to part way and every combination in between. Changes made:
Oven temp 500F/260C, use upside down cookie sheet, formed balls of dough with wet hands to get more moisture into the dough. Kept dough covered with a slightly moist towel at all times.
 
Did even the partial puffed up ones still create enough of a gap (or weakness if you will) in order to pull them apart to create the iconic 'pocket' of a pita?
 
No, I didn't cover them with a towel. I was using them in a middle eastern salad, think Greek croutons, so I wanted them on the dry crunchy side.
If you were using them like croutons, why did it matter whether they puffed or not?

Did you try the placement trick/flip? Covering them after they baked wasn't the point, just part of the paragraph.
 
One thing I have learned about pita. I must make perfect circles before putting in the oven.
I roll out and cut a perfect circle. I use a bowl or something round. Make sure you lay it down in that perfect circle.
For me when it's not a perfect circle it does not pop up right.
I've never done that.

I do use a combo of rolling out and stretching it with hands/knuckles, which is also how I shape pizza dough.
 
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