I love making my family foods from different regions in the world. This is probably because I enjoy eating different cuisines and if a bread recipe is involved in dinner, even better! I love pita bread’s endless possibilities of stuffing it with delicious fillings. Homemade pita bread for dinner is asked for on repeat here. My kids favorite dinner is stuffing their pita with whatever they want (lunch meat, veggies, mediterranean style chicken, gyros, etc…). I love that there’s no complaint at dinner time! This sourdough discard pita bread is the perfect vehicle for a pita sandwich: light, fluffy and a beautiful, airy pocket in the middle for the perfect pita bread sandwich.
Steps to the Perfect Pita Bread
One of the things that separates pita from naan bread or a soft wrap bread is the pocket that is created when pita is baked. The key to forming that awesome pocket in pita bread is using a very hot oven to help create steam. Steam puffs up the dough during the baking process and forms a pocket in the bread. After the pita cools, the bread will flatten but a pocket will remain. This pocket can be a little bit finicky and relies on pretty near perfect conditions for it to form while baking. If you can remember the following tips when making your homemade sourdough discard pita bread, you will get nice pockets 80-100% of the time.
Top Tips for a Perfect Pita Bread Pocket
- HOT, HOT oven: Preheat a pizza stone for 30-40 minutes BEFORE baking the pita (550 degrees if you can, 500 degrees will work too). Baking in an Ooni Pizza Oven is even better for the pocket to form if you have one.
- Tacky Dough: If your pita dough is too dry, it will not form a perfect pocket. Add flour a little bit at a time until it is slightly tacky.
- Double Rise: Let the dough rise once for an hour or longer. Then shape and rise again for about 30 minutes before rolling.
- Roll it THIN: Roll the pita bread as thin as you can without tearing the dough. ¼ inch or thinner works best.
- Create Steam: When baking the pita bread, create steam in your oven by tossing a few ice cubes into the oven OR spritzing the top of the dough with water before putting in oven. If you use an Ooni Pizza oven you don’t need to worry about this step.
- Wrap Up Warm Pita: To preserve the pocket created in the oven, as soon as the pita is finished baking, remove it from the oven and fold it up in a kitchen towel. Repeat this process with all of the pita bread. This keeps the pita warm and locks in moisture.
Even with all of these tips, it’s still possible your pita will not rise and form a pocket. Don’t despair! The pita bread will still taste very good and hopefully your next pita will form a pocket when baked.
Sourdough Discard in Pita Bread
If you know me, you know I’m always looking for ways to use up some sourdough discard. I love the health benefits (all that “good” bacteria that help maintain a stable, healthy digestive system) and less food waste. Both of these things contribute to me adding sourdough discard to a lot of my baked goods. Waffles, biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, you name it…I will try it! This sourdough discard pita bread is no different. I love that this recipe calls for a whole cup of sourdough discard. If you don’t have discard on hand you can also use sourdough starter instead for similar health benefits. Because this recipe uses a lot of discard, it’s important to use discard that is 100% hydration (meaning it’s been fed equal weights water and flour). If you use discard with a higher hydration, you’ll want to add a little more flour to the pita bread. Conversely if you use a lower hydration discard you’ll want a little less flour. Make sure you are feeling the dough throughout and know when to stop adding flour. Over-flouring the dough leads to a flat and no-pocket pita.
Mixing Pita Dough
Pita dough can be mixed using a stand mixer or by hand. When making small batches of dough, like this recipe, I like using my Kitchen Aid mixer. If I was doubling the recipe and making a larger batch, I would use a Bosch mixer. Using a mixer means you can dump all the ingredients into the mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn it on and let it knead for about 5 minutes. If you choose to mix by hand, whisk together the ingredients (I love this Danish dough whisk) and then knead for 2 minutes by hand. Let the dough rest and gluten relax for about 5 minutes and then knead again for another two minutes. Once the dough has been kneaded, place it in a container, cover it and let the dough rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
Shaping and Rolling Pita Bread
Pita bread dough is initially pre-shaped into small balls before being rolled thin. At this point, you will want to begin pre-heating your oven or pizza oven. Dump the dough out onto a countertop and separate into 8 pieces. Taking a piece at a time, pull up the sides of the dough into the middle while rotating the dough in your hand. Then roll the ball on the countertop to seal the seam and place on the counter. Cover the dough balls and let them rise again for about 30 minutes. Once the balls have risen, use a rolling pin to roll one of the balls out very thin, a little less than 1/4 inch without tearing the dough. Lightly flour a board and place the rolled out dough on the board. It is now ready to be baked in an oven.
Baking Pita in an Oven
To get a traditional pocket in pita bread using a conventional oven, you will want to use a baking stone (my favorite one) or pizza stone. The baking stone helps keep the oven hot and is the perfect place to bake the pita bread once it’s pre-heated. Place the baking stone in the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 550 degrees (or the highest temperature your oven will set) for about 30-40 minutes. The extra pre-heating time is important because the stone will take longer to reach the oven temperature and you want your oven to be super hot before baking the pita. Once your oven is pre-heated and ready, it’s time to add some extra steam to encourage the pita to rise. I like to do this by tossing a handful of ice cubes into the oven before I slide the dough onto the pizza stone. You can also spritz the top of the pita with a light mist of water before placing it in the oven. Slide the pita dough into the oven and close the oven. Bake for about 3 minutes until puffed up and lightly brown. Remove immediately from the oven and wrap warm pita in a kitchen towel. Repeat with the remaining pita bread.
Baking Pita in an Ooni Pizza Oven
My favorite way to bake this pita bread is in an Ooni Pizza Oven. I have waxed poetic about my love for the Ooni before and have a few great Ooni specific recipes for Naan bread and Pizza that I love. This sourdough discard pita bread is right up there with those recipes in deliciousness. Pre-heat your pizza oven on the highest setting for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the temperature down just a bit. Launch the rolled pita dough into the Ooni by quickly thrusting the dough off the board and into the oven. Bake for about 40 seconds to 1 minute until puffed up. Immediately after the pita puffs up all the way, pull it out of the oven, rotate it and place it back in the Ooni, very close to the front opening of the oven. This will allow the pita to continue baking but will keep it from catching on fire (as it has a tendency to do the further toward the back of the oven you put it). After about 20 seconds, remove from the oven and wrap warm pita in a kitchen towel. Repeat with the remaining pita bread.
Fill and Enjoy
Once all the sourdough discard pita bread is baked and resting in a kitchen towel, prepare the fillings. Our family favorite is salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken and some tatziki sauce but the options are endless. Leftover pita can be stored at room temperature in a ziplock bag for 24 hours. Anything more than that can be stuck in the freezer for up to 3 months. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
It could be a number of reasons. Make sure the oven you are using has pre-heated to the highest setting. Use a baking stone and add steam to your oven or the pita before baking. If none of those work, make sure your dough isn’t too dry and and that you roll the pita bread about 1/4 inch thin with no holes in the dough.
Sourdough discard can be used for 2-3 weeks straight from the refrigerator. Pour off the “hooch,” stir it up and use it in a recipe. Anything older than about 3 weeks can be re-fed and used as a sourdough starter but I wouldn’t use it in my baked goods.
We love eating pita bread with chicken, lamb gyro meat, vegetables, as sandwiches and to dip into curries and soups.
Naan bread is typically larger, softer and does not typically have a pocket in the middle. Pita bread is made from simpler ingredients (flour, water, yeast, oil, salt) is a little drier and has a large pocket in the middle for fillings.
Initially pita bread should be put in a kitchen towel right after its baked. Leftover pita can be stored in an airtight container for about 24 hours. After 24 hours, pita bread can be frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, pull it out of the freezer and thaw or warm up a bit before using.
This can often happen when the Ooni is too hot or the pita bread is stuck too far back in the pizza oven. Turn the temperature down a little if this keeps happening. As soon as the pita bread puffs up, move the pita a little closer to the opening of the pizza oven to finish baking. This should help keep the pita from catching on fire.
Sourdough Discard Pita Bread
- 225 grams water about 1 cup, room temperature
- 200 grams sourdough discard about 1 cup, see recipe note
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 35 grams whole wheat flour about 1/4 cup
- 410 grams all purpose flour about 2.5-3 cups
- Kneading by Mixer: To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm water, sourdough discard, olive oil, granuated sugar, instant yeast and salt. Stir to combine. With the dough hook running, add the flour and knead for about 5 minutes, adding a Tablespoon or more flour as needed until soft, tacky and smooth.
- Kneading by Hand: Mix together all the ingredients. Spread a little dusting of flour on the counter. Knead for 2 minutes until the dough comes together, adding small amounts of flour as needed. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for another 2 minutes until smooth.
- Cover dough and let rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
- Seperate the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Pull up the sides of the dough into the middle while rotating the dough in your hand. Then roll the ball on the countertop to seal the seam and place on the counter. Cover and let rise again, about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Take one risen ball of dough and roll out into a thin circle. The thinner you can roll the pita, the better. Be careful not to "break" any holes in the pita or else it willl not rise with a pocket in the oven.
Baking Pita Bread
- Oven Method: Place a baking stone in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 550 degrees. Once the oven is pre-heated for 30 minutes, roll a piece of dough out into a circle. Place the rolled out pita on a lightly floured board. Take a couple ice cubes and toss them in the oven before sliding the pita on the pizza stone. Quickly close the oven door and bake for 2-3 minutes until puffed up and lightly brown. Immediately remove to a plate and cover with a dishtowel. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
- Pizza Oven Method: Pre-heat your pizza oven (I love my ooni) on high heat for about 30 minutes. Place the rolled out pita on a lightly floured board. Thrust the pita into the oven and let it bake for about 1 minute until puffed up. Once puffed up, quickly pull the pita out of the pizza oven and rotate, putting the pita back in the pizza oven very close to the opening (this helps prevent the pita from over-baking and catching on fire). Let bake for about 20 more seconds. Remove to a plate and cover with a dishtowel. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
- Let the pita cool before slicing in half and filling with toppings. Enjoy!
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