Do you regularly buy pita bread to make lovely stuffed pockets for lunch? Try making them yourself! Our Sourdough Pita Bread stands head and shoulders above the shop-bought ones. Read on for the recipe, our tips and tricks to make pita bread puff up and some ideas on what to use them for!
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What Is Pita Bread?
There are two commonly known types of pita bread – Greek and Middle Eastern. The greek version is a flatbread that has no pocket in the middle, and the Middle Eastern pita puffs up, creating a hollow space in the centre and can then be used to stuff various fillings in.
The history of pita bread is long and rich. It dates back 15 centuries, and there’s archaeological evidence that pitas were first made from wild grains in the area that the modern country of Jordan currently occupies. However, the development of the ‘pocket-pita’ is a much later development, first mentioned in English dictionaries as recently as 1936.
The word pita (or pitta in British English) is said to have been borrowed from the Modern Greek word πίτα, meaning bread, cake or pie.
Why You Should Use Sourdough To Make Pita Bread
There are plenty of reasons to use sourdough starter for leavening your dough:
- Naturally-leavened bakes, that use sourdough starter have more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in comparison to other types of bread.
- Sourdough Pittas are lower in phytate which means that your body can absorb the nutrients in the bread easier.
- The bread has a subtle signature sourdough tang that is simply irresistible.
- Making sourdough pita bread is a perfect way to split the work required to make bread over two days.
What To Use Sourdough Pita Bread for?
Whilst stuffing pitta bread with delicious sandwich fillings or more traditional Middle Eastern Falafel is definitely the most popular way to use Pita Bread, there are a lot more you can do with them.
- Use them as a pizza base and top with your favourite pizza toppings.
- Make sourdough pita crisps. Cut pitas into strips, drizzle with olive oil and generously season with salt. Spread in a single layer on a large tray and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until crispy.
- Dip in hummus (obviously!).
- Serve with your BBQ‘ed burger or sausages instead of the burger or hot dog buns.
Top Tips for Making Sourdough Pita Bread Puff Up
- Your Oven: Make sure you preheat the oven. It has to be HOT. Since you’re only baking for approx. 5 minutes, you’re not risking your bread burning, so set the temperature to the max, which is normally 230-240°C Fan for most home ovens.
- Your Baking Tray/ Stone: We experimented with a cast-iron skillet, a baking stone and a baking tray. A cast-iron skillet worked best, closely followed by a baking stone. If you’re using a baking tray, try and find a dark one (it will reflect less heat). Whatever you use, make sure you preheat the tray/stone. It will ensure your sourdough pita bread puffs up in the oven.
- Rolling: Don’t roll your pita bread out thinner than 6mm. You may end up with lots of naan-bread-like blisters rather than one big puffed-up sourdough pita.
Day 1: Feeding Starter, Making Dough and Proofing
First thing in the morning, feed your starter and leave to at least double for 4-6 hours. Go by how much your starter rises, rather than the time indicated.
Once your starter doubles, mix the starter, water and half of the flour to a smooth batter and leave for an hour to autolyse.
After an hour, mix in the rest of the flour, olive oil, salt and sugar. In a stand mixer, knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough will be rather sticky.
Grease a shallow dish with some oil. Pop your dough into the dish, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm (ideally 20-24°C). For the next 3 hours, you will perform coil folds (click the link for a video) or stretch & fold sets every 30 minutes. After you’ve done 6 sets of folds, leave the dough to prove for another hour. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and pop it in the fridge overnight.
Day 2: Shape and Bake
Take the dough out of the fridge and tip it onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into six pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into ovals, about 18cm (7in) long x 12cm (4.5in) wide. They should be approx. 6-7mm (¼ in) thick.
Immediately place the pitas on the preheated sheet/ baking stone/ cast-iron skillet and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Don’t overcrowd the oven (as it will create too much steam). Bake 2-3 pita breads at a time. Keep the rest of the breads covered with a tea towel.
You can keep your pitas warm wrapped in a tea towel and placed on a radiator, whilst you bake the rest of your pitta breads.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s happened. First, your oven temperature may not have been high enough. Maybe it’s dropped too much when you put the pita in, or maybe your baking stone/ cast iron skillet wasn’t preheated enough. Secondly, it may be that your sourdough pitas were not rolled out thinly enough (this may be the case if you have lots of small pockets/ blisters instead of one big one).
These pita breads are at their best on the day that they’re baked, but you can store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours. Alternatively, freeze them in ziplock bags for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to a 180°C Fan. Wrap each pita bread individually in foil and place them in the oven for 5-7 minutes. If you don’t wrap your pitas in foil, you will end up with a drier, more brittle version, that’s still delicious, but not great for stuffing fillings in.
Other Sourdough Recipes
If you love baking with sourdough starter, have a look at other recipes we love:
Sourdough Pita Bread Recipe
- Baking Stone, Cast Iron Skillet or Dark Baking Tray
- 170 g active sourdough starter 100% hydration
- 170 ml lukewarm water
- 290 g strong white flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- First thing in the morning, feed your starter and leave to at least double for 4-6 hours. Go by how much your starter rises, rather than time indicated.
- Once your starter doubles, mix starter, water and half of the flour to a smooth batter and leave for an hour to autolyse.
- After an hour, mix in the rest of the flour, olive oil, salt and sugar. In a stand mixer, knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough will be rather sticky.
- Grease a shallow dish with some oil. Pop your dough into the dish, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm (ideally 20-24°C). For the next 3 hours, you will perform coil folds or stretch & fold sets (see text above) every 30 minutes. After you'd done 6 sets of folds, leave the dough to prove for another hour. Then wrap with clingfilm and pop in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 240°C Fan. Place a baking sheet, a large cast iron skillet or a baking/pizza stone (more on that in the text above) in the middle of the oven to preheat.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and tip onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into six pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into ovals, about 18cm (7in) long x 12cm (4.5in) wide. They should be approx. 6-7mm (¼ in) thick.
- Immediately place the pitas on the preheated sheet/ baking stone and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Don't overcrowd the oven (as it will create too much steam). Bake 2-3 pita breads at a time. Keep the rest of the bread covered with a tea towel.
- You can keep your pitas warm wrapped in a tea towel and placed on a radiator whilst you bake the rest of your pitta breads.