The first time I made pita bread, I was sixteen and had never really made any kind of bread before. I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical that the flat disks of dough that I dutifully rolled out would end up with pockets in them. And yet, despite my lack of knowledge and my skepticism, many of the pitas turned out beautifully (and with pockets no less!).
I’ve made pita several times since then, always baking them in the oven. This time around, I decided to go with the stovetop method. While both methods turn out delicious pitas (let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong with bread), I like the stove method better. The stovetop pitas seem to turn out softer and more flexible than the oven ones, plus you get the great toasty flavor from the browned spots.
A cast iron skillet is essential to make pitas on the stove—cast iron can hold the heat you need to create the steam that makes the pitas puff up. To be honest, I’m still amazed when the disks magically fill with air. Not all of my pitas fully puffed up, but they’re delicious without the pockets too. I like to eat them folded up with hummus, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes.
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Makes 8 pitas
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Place the water and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved. Add the flour, salt, and olive oil and combine.
Sprinkle some flour across a clean surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
Coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Turn your ball of dough around in the bowl until it’s coated, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise.
Let the dough rise until it has doubled (it usually takes mine about an hour and a half). Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form into balls. Roll out each ball into a thin disk, about 1/4 of an inch, adding a little flour if it starts to stick.
While you’re rolling out the pitas, preheat a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. The pan should be pretty hot so that the pitas will puff up nicely. Coat the pan with a thin coat of olive oil.
Place a rolled-out pita in the pan and let cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until bubbles start to form. Flip over and cook the other side until toasted spots start to appear on the bottom. The pita should start puffing up. Flip the pita once more and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Remove the pita from the skillet and repeat with the remaining pitas.