The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Slow Rise Pita Fail

Lee Miro's picture
Lee Miro

Slow Rise Pita Fail

Newbie here with an epic pita bread fail. 

I tried reducing the yeast in a pita recipe for a slow rise in the fridge. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp yeast to 12 oz. flour with a 1-2 hour rise. I reduced to a scant 1/4 tsp. yeast for an 18-hour rise in the fridge. The dough barely rose. I let in come to room temperature, which didn't alter it much, then proceeded with a stovetop cook in my cast iron pan. The bread bubbled and partially puffed, but tasted, well, like flour and salt. Awful. 

This was my fourth time making pita, and my second time making this recipe. I previously used the amount of yeast indicated in the recipe and then refrigerated for 12-24 hours. I'm interested in reducing the yeast to achieve the flavor difference that bakers report, but this batch was clearly a big fail. Where did I go wrong?

Thanks in advance. 


Original recipe, altered to make 6 pitas instead of 8

12 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour 

1 1/2 teaspoons salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use dry active yeast and sprinkle over my water)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup PLUS 1 TB water (I used hot water, same temp I normally would for any yeast)




franbaker's picture

I'm no expert at bread baking yet, but I have some experience and have done a lot of reading, so I'm going to make an attempt to answer your question, since no one else has done so yet. I think 1/4 tsp. was not enough yeast to raise your dough at refrigerator temps. It might have risen it in 18 hours at room temp. But think about it -- if you've been able to retard dough with 1-1/2 tsp. yeast in it in the fridge for 12-24 hours without it overfermenting, how would the dough manage to rise in the fridge with only 1/6 as much yeast?

I think a better way to achieve your goal would be to find a recipe for pita bread that uses a poolish, which pre-ferments part of the dough. In fact it sounds like you were trying to do something like that, only with all of your dough, which likely wouldn't bake up well even if it had risen. There is an example of a pita recipe with a poolish here:, although it's a very large recipe, I would cut it in half. Instructions about how to adapt any bread recipe to using a poolish can be found here:

Note: I haven't used recipes from these sites before, so can't vouch for them, but they look reasonable.

For myself I usually use a sourdough starter to improve flavor, but a poolish can work well, too.

Lee Miro's picture
Lee Miro

Thanks, Fran. Yeah, the blog posts I read about reducing yeast for longer rises confused me a bit.

. .They offer an equation to reduce yeast according to increased rise times, but don't address the temperature aspect. That recipe you linked to looks like another route to exactly what I want to achieve. Thank you! I will try that next. I've done ciabatta with a sponge starter before and like how that turned out.

franbaker's picture

I think reducing the yeast would indeed slow down the rise time, but some refrigerators are too cold for yeast to multiply at all (it pretty much stops below about 39.5F, according to what I've read). So a poolish/biga/sponge method might be a better way to get to where you want to go. I haven't seen any recipes that call for leavening *all* of the dough with such a small amount of yeast for a long room temp rise, which makes me think that there might be a reason for that -- some reason why it doesn't work out so well. But you could try using 1/4 tsp. at room temp and just watch your dough like a hawk to see how long it takes to rise at your ambient temp. It would be interesting to find out how it bakes up.

Happy baking!


tgrayson's picture

I don't usually reduce the yeast when putting the dough in the refrigerator; I keep my refrigerator just a degree or two above freezing, so once dough comes down to temperature, it doesn't do much rising.

You might try reverting to the original yeast quantity and do a punch down/fold after an hour or so in the refrigerator.


dabrownman's picture

Naan, Pita dn pizza with a very long retard of 48 hours.  low and slow means flavor no matter what the recipe.  Take a bit of yeast, a pinch is really ally you need if instant  and mix it with 50g each of flour and water and let it sit on the counter for 5-7 hours until it is really bubbllng away and then use it for the recipe.

Happy baking

Lee Miro's picture
Lee Miro

Interesting, so I can do a slow rise at room temp. and then refrigerate. (Assuming my fridge isn't yeast-killing cold, which I think it isn't because my previous refrigerated pita batches with regular amounts of yeast would rise up a bit after shaping.)

It's been just too hot for an 18-hour room temp rise, but I think when the weather cools down, I may try the reduced yeast again without the refridgeration. In the mean time, I look forward to starting my poolish. 

 Thank you all!

Lee Miro's picture
Lee Miro

I got a chance to try pita again with a poolish last week, with great success. My bread was very flavorful, and I got every pita to puff on the stove--a record for me.

I halved Fran's linked recipe.

I let the poolish rise at room temp for 24 hours. For the dough, I reduced the yeast to from 1 Tb to 1/4 Tsp. I let the dough rise at room temp for about four hours, then deflated it slightly and refrigerated for an additional 9 hours. It may have more than doubled, but it didn't sink or wrinkle, so I don't think I overproofed.

Next time, I may try halfing the amount of yeast in the poolish, since I'm leaving it at room temp for 24 hours. From what dabrownman said, this should work just fine.

Thank you guys for all your help! This is the best pita I've made by a mile.