The Fresh Loaf

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Arabic pita

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Arabic pita

I've made pitas a few times, but never posted here. Freshly baked pitas are absolutely delicious, I never knew they could be so tasty when I used to have them from the supermarket.

Basically, I make them using sourdough, with 20% whole grain (and I think I've only used spelt in this case), and 65% hydration, some olive oil and a bit of sugar. Here is the formula: https://fgbc.dk/1m2j

I mix all ingredients except for oil and develop a little strength, and then knead in the oil. I doubt it's really necessary and the oil can probably be kneaded from the beginning with no problems. I then let it rise until nicely puffy, and due to the nature of this bread there is no specific volume increase or any other target - just until looks and feels good. Then, since I mostly use them for breakfast with hummus, I just put the dough in the fridge until morning. In the morning I start by turning on the oven with the baking steel in and preheat on the highest temperature for about 30 min. While it's preheating, I scale and ball up the needed amount of pitas (the formula above makes about 8 generously sized 115 g pitas). If I feel like it and have enough space in the container, I might ball up all of the dough and put extra balls back in the fridge to save time next day. The dough keeps in the fridge exceptionally well, I've certainly kept it for 3 days with no issues.

After 15-20 min of preheating, I roll out the pitas into thin rounds (or whatever shape I manage). From reading some old discussions here and from my experience, nice balling up like for pizza, and careful rolling out is very important for good inflation. Letting the dough rest at either the ball or the flat stage also helps a lot, and for me roughly 30 min total time works well. When ready to eat, I just place one or two pitas on the steel at a time and switch on the grill. Then hopefully the pitas puff up like balloons, and the top gets a little nice browning from the grill (but it is easy to overcook them and make the top too dry). Here is a video of the cooking in real time: https://photos.app.goo.gl/dPH1Mn74NrhHwUSq7 (I started it a few seconds after placing the dough on the steel, and the time needed to turn on the camera already was enough for a lot of bubbling!). (The picture on top is from a different batch a while ago.) The flavour is fantastic.

The only minor issue is that I get a much thinner and less fluffy inside top relative to the bottom of the pita, like so:

I wonder what I could do to make them more even? I am really happy with the results every time nevertheless.

As a bonus, it seems cooking them on the grates instead of the steel produces Greek-style pitas, which are more fluffy and don't have a pocket. But that needs more experimentation, I've only done this once when I brought this dough to a barbecue hoping to cook on the grill, but due to weather it was moved indoors and I cooked on the grates in a gas grill oven.

Comments

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

"I wonder what I could do to make them more even? "

Try half the oil, and half the sugar.  Lowering the pre-heat and cooking temp to 210 - 230 C might help too.

The bottom photo also looks like it's getting too much top heat, and cooking too fast. So keep the top heating element off for the first minute or two of the bake.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Ah interesting, thank you!

I assumed they should be cooked as hot as possible.

The whole cooking time was less than 2 min for me, should it take longer?

Indeed I use the grill to give the top a bit of browning, and sometimes I don't get them out quickly enough and the top crisps up a little. But the issue with switching it on and off is that it takes a long time to heat up... So with such a short bake it's either on or off the whole time, basically. Maybe I don't need to have it on.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

If you use the upper heating element for pre-heat (or if it is automatically part of the built-in pre-heat sequence, which I assume it is, due to it being a convection oven) then both the upper element and the roof of the oven itself will retain enough heat to radiate some back down for a few minutes during the early part of the bake. I picked up on this situation by reading kendalm's adventures baking bread in his pizza oven.

Also, if you manually turn back on the upper heating element 1 or 2 minutes into the bake, after an upper-element pre-heat, the element is not starting at room temp, and won't take long to get up to temp.

Thirdly, the element does not have to get cherry red before it starts to radiate heat downward. It will start radiating quickly way before it gets to the 1400 F temp or whatever the cherry red temp is.

So, like kendalm, you have several variables to play with in order to find your sweet spot:  temp, time-on/time-off/time-on of upper element, and over-all time.

good luck, amigo. And buen provecho.

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

The bottom layer does look a bit doughy, so maybe lower baking temp would help.

Excess hydration, oil, or sugar could also be contributing.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Thanks a lot for all the advice, I'll experiment next time!

justkeepswimming's picture
justkeepswimming

Nice to know the dough will last in the fridge a few days. 

Any dough I try to roll out (which isn't often, so very little practice which doesn't help) tends to look like some sort of amoeba, lol. I watched a video a few months ago of an Italian grandmother making focaccia. Even though her family gets here any utensil imaginable, she prefers her old school approach. She rolls dough into a ball, then presses the ball with a flat bottomed plate. I tried this recently with a different flatbread and it worked pretty well! I had to use a rolling pin to get it a little thinner, but I suspect a different plate or bowl would have given better results. The slight rim on the bottom of the plate at hand kept it from getting any thinner..... Which could be useful for some other preferred outcome, a sort of built in standard for thickness preference. 

Mary

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Wow that's a neat idea! I'd be worried it's easier for the dough to stick to the worktop when it's pressed down, instead of rolled out when it can be moved between rolling motions - but I might give it a try next time!

justkeepswimming's picture
justkeepswimming

That might be true for some bread recipes? It didn't for the flatbread recipe I was working with. That had a little oil as well, and the dough was soft and pliable. One small spot threatened to stick, but a gentle nudge with the bench knife fixed things right up. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Nice, sounds good! Something to experiment with, thank you for sharing :)