Like little pillows of heaven
November 23, 2007 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a recipe that would reproduce restaurant-style pita bread?

Grocery store pitas are a crime against all that is good in this world, and while I've got a simple recipe for pita bread that will puff nicely in the oven, the results are not quite the same as those I get in a Greek or Middle Eastern restaurant. Is it possible for a home cook to make these?
posted by bibliowench to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I don't eat pita at restaurants often enough to know how it compares, exactly, but I was thoroughly pleased with this recipe from The Fresh Loaf.
posted by Diggins at 3:39 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest looking for a bakery that makes nothing but pita. I lived around the corner from one for a while and they were incredible when they were fresh. I know that they supplied a lot of restaurants, so that may actually be the sort of pita you want (I'd be surprised if Middle Eastern restaurants generally made their own).

On the home baking front, it would probably be easier for others to answer if you specify what properties the restaurant pitas have that your home cooked ones don't.
posted by ssg at 3:53 PM on November 23, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah - I was vague about the difference before because I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I've made the bread in Diggens' link, and while it's far superior to supermarket pita, it's not quite as flavorful, as full, as chewy, as oh-god-I-need-to-spend-a-hour-on-the-treadmill-tomorrow decadent as restaurant pitas. I imagine I need to add more fat, but I don't know know how exactly.
posted by bibliowench at 4:04 PM on November 23, 2007

Best answer: YouTubery on how to make Pita.

A simpler alternative to pita is roti. Even if you don't want to make roti, this video is a gem and Manjula should have her own show on the Food Network.
posted by essexjan at 4:10 PM on November 23, 2007 [5 favorites]

essexjan - Manjula is awesome! Thanks for the link.
posted by mce at 4:23 PM on November 23, 2007

I don't think I can help much with a home recipe, but I wanted to note that the best pitas I've had (certainly chewy and full, but maybe not really flavourful) don't have any fat in them at all. I think the chewy, full aspect comes from the gluten, not the fat, though it might help with the flavour.
posted by ssg at 4:48 PM on November 23, 2007

Fat usually makes bread very soft. Not sure about pita, haven't made that. Have you baked on a hot stone surface? That's usually the big difference between home and commercial baking.
posted by Goofyy at 11:58 PM on November 23, 2007

Pita Bread from King Arthur Flour website:

Pita bread is one of those things (like English muffins, like soft pretzels) that most people simply don't think of making. "It's too hard. It won't work. They won't puff up." Baloney. This is just a simple white bread recipe cooked in an unusual way. They will puff up; honest. And fresh, golden pita bread, hot from the oven, is a revelation; it makes those packaged pitas pale (literally) by comparison.
posted by Corky at 7:43 AM on November 24, 2007

Best answer: I have a recipe for Syrian Bread that my Spousal Equivalent's mother makes all the time. She got the recipe from a lady who owned a Middle Eastern restaurant in Lower Burrell, PA about 50 years ago. When the restaurant closed down, the lady gave my S.E. mom the recipe, and she's been making it for her family for 50 years. It's really good, and is almost, if not exactly what you're seeking:

For 6 loaves, you'll need 6 12" pizza pans, the kind with a small rim at the edge.

5 lbs white flour (not bread flour)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil (canola is fine)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cake OR 1 1/2 pkg dry yeast
5 cups lukewarm water, plus 1 more cup if needed

In a large glass measuring cup or glass bowl, mix salt, sugar, oil and yeast with 5 cups water. Stir until yeast is dissolved. (You don't need to let the water/yeast mixture sit until bubbly like for white bread.)

In a very big bowl, put all 5 lbs flour. Make a hole in the center of the flour, and add water/yeast mixture to flour. Mix with your hands, then knead until smooth. I put the bowl on a towel, and spin it around a quarter turn each time I knead and fold the dough. Add some additional water (up to 1 cup more) if necessary. Use your fingers to sprinkle the additional water on any dry flour stuck to the bowl.

Knead for 10 minutes total. Dough should be nice and smooth, and pliable. Cover the bowl with a towel, put in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Cut the dough into six equal portions; form each piece into a ball. Lay out a large towel and put the 6 balls on it. Cover with another towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475. Put oven racks on lowest and highest positions. Flatten each ball and roll out into a 12" round, and place on pizza pans. (I use an old tube sock with the toe cut off to cover my rolling pin. Keeps the dough from sticking.)

Use a fork, cake knife or cake decorating tool (serrated edge) to serrate each round into 6 pieces. Don't cut all the way through. Let each round loaf sit for 30 minutes, covered with a towel.

Put one loaf into oven on the lowest rack. Bake for 6 minutes, then slide the loaf off the pizza pan onto the highest rack. (I bought a pizza oven paddle for this purpose. It is so much easier than trying to improvise!)

At the same time, put another loaf on the lowest rack, and bake both for 6 more minutes. Take the first loaf out and place on cooling rack. Slide the second loaf off the pan and put on the highest rack, and put third loaf on lowest rack. Bake for 6 minutes. Repeat until all loaves are baked.

When each hot loaf comes out of the oven, brush with a tiny amount of butter or margarine, using a paper towel to spread a light coating over the surface. Let the loaves cool for a little while, then use scissors or a sharp knife to separate each of the individual pieces. When the loaves are cooler, but not completely cold, use a bread knife to split each piece - like pita bread or English muffins.

If you want pita pockets, you can cut each loaf into halves instead of 6 pieces. I haven't tried it yet, but I want to experiment using smaller pizza pans when I do pita pockets.

I bought my pizza pans and paddle from a restaurant supply warehouse near me in Laurel, MD. Much cheaper to get the equipment there than to buy retail.
posted by Corky at 8:10 AM on November 24, 2007 [4 favorites]

Oh, and the loaves freeze really well, too. The Old Folks™, as we like to call them, are here for the Thanksgiving holiday. His mom (almost 81 years young, and still spry and fiesty) brought six loaves of this bread that she baked to my house on Wednesday. We've gone through two loaves already. The other four are going to stay in the freezer, by God, for turkey sammiches next week!
posted by Corky at 8:17 AM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, Corky. I made this recipe tonight, halving it because I didn't feel like wrestling with five pounds of flour. It's not exactly what I was looking for. Again, I'm not sure how to put the difference into words - these loaves had more of a focaccia-like consistency - but I think I like them better than what I was looking for in the first place. Please thank your Spousal Equivalent's mother for me.

Next week - Roti!
posted by bibliowench at 9:14 PM on November 24, 2007

« Older What are soundalike songs in commercials and TV...   |   Now that I've written it, I'm already feeling bad... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.