Now that summer is officially under way and it (sometimes) gets hot, I tend to avoid turning the oven on, as our flat gets very hot and we don’t need any extra heat. It’s time for salads, gazpachos and things that can be eaten cold(ish).
However… sometimes the pull of making something with flour is still strong. And that’s when I reach for these very easy to make pitta breads, which are dry-fried in a pan rather than baked in the oven.
It will still be hot in the kitchen for a bit, but then you’re done and ready to eat your little freshly baked wonders. And it’s so exciting to see them puff up! One of my favourite parts.
Ingredients (for about 4 pitta breads)
- 50g sourdough starter (I used white for a more ‘classic’ taste)
- 200g strong white flour, plus more for dusting
- 120g water at room temperature
- Pinch of salt
You will also need:
- Decently sized mixing bowl
- Plastic shower cap or a wet cloth to cover the dough while it proves
- A dough scraper (like this)
- A rolling pin
- A non-sticky pan for dry frying (or a pan which gets sticky, but with oil I guess?)
- Something to flip the breads in the pan (spatula, tongs, etc)
This recipe is EXTREMELY forgiving. I mix the ingredients in the morning, before starting work, then leave them proving on the kitchen counter, and come back to them at dinner time to shape and fry them. There’s not a lot of kneading involved unless you want to (work making you stressed?). It’s about making sure the ingredients are well mixed before letting them rest.
Add the starter, salt and 100g of the water to a mixing bowl, and stir or whisk to make sure the starter is properly dissolved.
Add the flour and mix well until there are no dry patches. If it’s too dry, add spoonfuls of water until it is elastic, a bit sticky still, but not desperately sticky. Try to keep the total under 120g. But it can depend on the type of flour you use—some absorb more water than others.
Cover the bowl with the shower cap or a damp towel, and leave to rest until you’re ready to cook.
Note: I leave these resting and proving for about 10 hours (from 8:00 to 18:00). If you’re going to be away from the kitchen for a longer time, and are afraid that your kitchen is too warm and the mix will overflow, you could also place the bowl in the fridge instead, for a slower fermentation process. Another option would be to leave it outside for an hour or two, before placing it in the fridge until you return.
When you’re ready to cook these, flour the work surface, and scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the surface. It will probably be quite risen and sticky. That’s why you will need to be generous with flour now. I normally add a bit of flour over the dough too, spreading the flour around the dough while shaping it into a rough ball. Keep adding flour bit by bit and distributing it on the surface until it stops being sticky and becomes easier to handle.
Note: If this process sounds tedious, you could always add less water or more flour on the initial mixing stage instead.
When you’re satisfied the dough is easy to handle, make a blanket fold with it, and turn the dough around so the seam ends underneath.
With your baking scraper or another similar implement, divide the dough in four parts (or whichever size you think will fit your pan).
Shape each of them into a ball, creating a bit of surface tension. Make sure the seam stays underneath! Flour them abundantly to prevent them from sticking to things, and leave to rest in the counter so they relax a bit.
To learn from my experience: don’t make a “tower” of breads like I did. They look fun, but they tend to stick to each other even if you flour them very generously. Stick to keeping them in the counter side by side.
Now, get your pan onto the stove, set it to a VERY HIGH heat and wait. You want it to be REALLY HOT. Like… super very hot, so hot that when the bread hits the surface, it starts cooking and puffing up almost immediately. HOT HOT HOT! (You might get some smoke too, so get that extractor fan going).
When you think it’s almost HOT HOT HOT… it’s time to roll the first of your pitta breads!
Flour the surface very generously again, place one of the dough balls on the floured surface, and add more flour on top (to avoid the dough getting stuck to the rolling pin).
Flatten the ball while trying to keep it round. You might need to do it in various directions, flipping it a couple of times. You might need to also add more flour if you feel the dough is getting sticky. I suppose this is the part that gets better with practice!
Once the dough has become a flat, thin disc (about 3-4 mm tall I reckon), place it in the pan.
You want to wait until it puffs up and gets charred on the side in contact with the pan before turning it around. Resist the urge to flip it too early! RESIST!
Instead, keep rolling the other balls so they become flattened and ready to cook as well.
This is the appearance you’re after:
Yes, I made these on a humble pan. No, they’re not shop bought. Yes, I’m very pleased.
These ones also had a beautiful puffed appearance. It’s really fun when they do inflate in the pan. Such a show!
I don’t think the pictures can make the flavour justice—but they’re really, really nice.
They are very pleasant on their own—the comforting embrace of the white flour slightly toasted outside, soft inside, the hint of salt and tang… a quite complex flavour out of few elements. But when you drizzle them with lusciously good olive oil, it becomes Next Level.
Bonus: tips and tricks
These are great eaten immediately, but they also keep really well for a couple of days. Store them in an airtight container, and you can reheat them on a pan or even slide them into the toaster whenever you want to eat them.
You could also make a big batch if you wanted to! And you would not regret it (I definitely wouldn’t).
Can you make this with yeast rather than sourdough starter? I haven’t personally tried this, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be possible. I reckon I’d either use a very small amount of yeast, and place the dough in the fridge after only an hour or so of proving, or simply reduce the proving time!
I would definitely do this if say, I were to travel somewhere, did not have my starter handy and desperately wanted to eat some freshly baked bread. Although… you might want to remember to bring your scraper with you! 😝
Ultimate question: can you make this without yeast and without sourdough starter? That’s a really good question that I ask myself every single time. I don’t know how much of the puffing up is due to the leavening agent and how much is due to the air in the discs expanding as it warms up, and being held by the beautiful stretching abilities of the gluten in the strong flour that has been absorbing water all day. The only way to answer this for sure would be to put it to a test.