You can buy pita everywhere, although most are disappointingly tough and more “flat” than “bread.” It’s hard to find the real thing: the chewy, slightly puffed rounds that are ubiquitous in the eastern Mediterranean. Both a baking stone and a baking sheet will work, but you can also try dry-baking them in a hot skillet on the stovetop—a fun variation that gives the bread more of a golden crust.
Makes: 6 to 12 pitas, depending on size
Time: At least 2 hours, somewhat unattended
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Melted butter (optional)
1. Combine the flour, olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it’s dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour 1 table- spoon at a time.)
2. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let it rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
3. When the dough is ready, divide it into 6 or more pieces; roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a little flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.
4. Roll each ball out to less than 1/4-inch thickness, using flour to prevent sticking as necessary. As you work, spread the flat disks out on a floured surface and keep them covered. When all the disks are rolled out, heat the oven to 350°F while you let the disks rest for at least 20 minutes. If you have a baking stone, put it on a low rack in the oven; if not, lightly oil a baking sheet and put it on the center rack. Alternatively, lightly oil and wipe out a heavy skillet or griddle, preferably cast iron.
5. To bake on a stone, use a peel or a large spatula to slide the individual disks—as many as will fit comfortably—directly onto the stone. Or bake 2 disks at a time on the baking sheet. To bake on the stovetop, put the skillet or griddle over medium-high heat; when the pan is very warm, add the dough. For which- ever method, bake the pita until lightly browned on one side, then flip and brown on the other side. Total baking time will be between 5 and 10 minutes, generally only 5 or 6, perhaps even a bit less for stovetop baking.
6. As the breads finish baking, transfer them to a wire rack. If you’re going to eat them fairly soon, brush with melted butter. Otherwise cool, then store in wax paper or plastic bags; reheat gently in a 200°F oven before serving.
Whole Wheat Pita
Substitute whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose or bread flour.
Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic to the food processor in Step 1 or knead it into the dough by hand. Before baking, sprinkle the pita rounds with some za’atar (cumin or paprika is also good).