On my list of things I never even pondered making at home was (apparently) pita bread. I was so far from pondering it that I had never even wondered about it until my aunt gave me 'A Baker's Odyssey' for my birthday (which is worth checking out, by the way). Among recipes for baked goods from around the world was a simple sounding pita recipe. I've been biding my time until I had an empty Sunday evening, and this weekend was it!
Here is the cliff notes version of what to do (including my modifications):
1. proof one package of yeast in half a cup hot water with just a dash of sugar (10 min)
2. to the yeast/water mixture add 1c flour, 2c water, and ~2tsp salt (it seems like a lot, but gives a good non-sweet flavor to the final product) and beat. Add 2 more cups flour to this along with 2T olive or canola oil.
3. stir in about 3 more cups flour until it looks like dough.
4. knead this for a bit, adding more flour until it is smooth and not sticky any more, shape into a ball.
5. coat a clean bowl with more oil, put the dough in the bowl and roll around to coat. cover and let rise (if I had read this post already, I would have used a shower cap, because I think that is an awesome idea).
6. Wait for the dough to double (an excellent activity during this time is to pre-emptively make hummus!)
7. Turn out on to work surface, deflate it a bit, and divide with a sharp knife (you can do 16 pieces, that worked well or if you want mini pitas could even do 24 or so).
8. shape each piece into a ball (be sure to pinch the seam shut) and put on a cookie sheet or towel, seam side down
9. let them sit while you pre-heat the oven (10-20 min). The oven should be REALLY hot. I used 500 because it was the hottest my oven goes. Put a cookie sheet in there while it is preheating so it also is pre-heated. If you have a baking or pizza stone you should use that, but plan ahead and start heating it up earlier.
10. roll out the dough into round shapes- you can decide if you want them fatter or thinner, mine are about as wide as my hand is from the fingers to the wrist. let them sit a few more minutes
11. this is the crazy part. Put some circles on the very hot cookie sheet (mine held 4) for only about 2-3 minutes (my oven took 3 minutes because it is a 'crapi' apartment oven). You'll know they are close because they puff up like little balloons! they shouldn't be very brown at all, the puffing is the main sign they are done.
12. now you have to get them out- BE CAREFUL, they are full of really hot steam. I gently pulled mine onto a oven mitt and then tossed them onto a towel... you can see how puffy they are...
13. Deflate each one as it comes out, and stack them up wrapped in a tea towel. I let mine cool tightly wrapped in the towel over night because they were too hot to put in a plastic baggy.
14. enjoy! this is seriously the best pita I have ever had, it is so moist and soft and delicious- and its like magic, it even is split on the inside like 'real' pita. I'm incorporating it into every meal and its awesome...