These barely leavened breads, known to us by their Israeli name, but common throughout the Arab world, are some of the most ancient in existence.
Although flat in appearance, they are designed to puff up during baking and then sink, creating a hollow interior that makes a handy repository for fillings.
Quick to make, and easy to eat, it’s little wonder they’re popular, in various forms, from southern Europe to north Africa, not only for stuffing, but also as utensils for dipping or scooping food, and bulking out soups and salads.
Ingredients: (makes 10)
- 400ml warm but not hot water
- 10g active dried yeast
- 2 tsp sugar
- 400g strong white flour
- 100g wholemeal flour (optional, or use 500g white)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease
- Put 100ml warm water in a jug and whisk in the yeast and half the sugar. Leave until the surface is covered in froth.
- Meanwhile, combine the flours, remaining sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix the oil and yeasty water in the flour with your fingertips, then add just enough of the remaining water to give you a “shaggy dough” – it should be soft, but not too sticky (note if you’re using all white flour, it probably won’t need as much as a wholemeal/white mix).
- Turn out on to a clean work surface and knead for about 10 minutes (or about 8 in a food mixer on a low speed) until smooth and elastic.
- Put into an oiled bowl, turn to coat in oil, then cover and refrigerate overnight, or leave somewhere warmish until doubled in size (about an hour to an hour and a half).
- Heat the oven to maximum, preferably fan, with a baking stone or heavy baking tray in there. Meanwhile, divide the dough into approximately 80g balls, cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes, then roll out on a floured surface to rounds about 0.5mm thick, making sure they are evenly thick all over. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.
- Operating as quickly as possible, put as many pitta as will comfortably fit on the hot stone or baking tray while it’s still in the oven, flipping them over as you pick them up, so the side resting on the work surface is now on top.
- Cook until they balloon, then carefully remove and keep warm in a tea towel while you cook the rest (how long this takes will depend on how hot your oven gets). Make sure to keep the oven door closed as much as possible to conserve heat.
- Eat the same day, or freeze.