Pitta bread recipe
I think of pitta as a lunch carrier. In Cyprus, where I lived for six years, people use it to contain their souvlaki and other meats. When you make pittas at home, the oven is like a magician's cave as you watch the dough puff up and transform into bread.
The secret is to roll out the dough as thin as you can and to put the pittas onto a very hot baking tray. This ferocious initial burst of heat helps them puff up and cook properly.
Makes 4-6 pittas
- 250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 5g salt
- 7g fast-action dried yeast
- 20g nigella or black onion seeds
- 160ml cool water
- 2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
Put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the nigella seeds, pour in 120ml of the water and add the 2 tsp oil. Mix the ingredients together, using the fingers of one hand. Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth, soft dough and you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl; you may not need all the water.
Pour a little oil onto a work surface and place the dough on it. Knead for 5–10 minutes or until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
When the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy, shape it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave to rise until the dough has at least doubled in size – at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 220°C (or higher) and put 2 baking trays inside to heat up.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back by folding the dough in on itself repeatedly until all the air is knocked out. Divide the dough into 4–6 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Flatten each ball with your fingertips, then roll into an oval, 5mm–1cm thick. Take the hot trays from the oven, dust with flour and lay the pittas on them. Bake for 5–10 minutes until the breads puff up and just start to take on a hint of colour.
Wrap the pittas in a cloth, to trap the steam and keep them soft, and leave to cool. They are best eaten the same day, or they can be frozen.