You’ll never buy store-bought pitas again once you learn how easy it is to make whole wheat pita bread. This bread is completely additive and oil free and with just 4 ingredients and a bit of rising time, you’ll be ready to enjoy tasty bites of guilt-free goodness begging for your favorite pita stuffers.
Why make your own pita bread?
I’ve been wanting to learn to make my own pita bread for a long time, because I struggled to find any ready-made pitas that weren’t full of additives and oil. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Any bread product with an expiration date that’s months in advance won’t survive without them.
Some of the brands we tried weren’t even that tasty. Our bakery pitas were no exception, although fresher, they were never oil free. And they were a bit pricey too.
Following your path
When it comes to what you eat, there only sure-fire way to guarantee that the ingredients (or lack of) are what you want them to be is to know every ingredient that in that dish. So, you either trust the cook or you are the cook.
Time searching, time rising
It’s takes about 2 hours for your whole wheat pita bread dough to rise. It’s inactive time for cooking, but active time for both the dough and you. You’ll add to that another 20 minutes for prepping, kneading and then the rolling and baking. How much time (and energy) would you spend searching for the healthiest pitas? That’s my way of suggesting that we can look at baking as a huge time commitment when, in reality, it’s a time saver. It just requires a bit of planning, so you have freshly baked pitas when you want them.
Start here – especially if you aren’t a ‘baker’
I’m probably what one would refer to as a reluctant baker. We don’t eat many desserts around here, so my baking is limited to flatbread to along with Mujadara or Greek pizzas, our holiday special biscuits and gravy or pizza crust. Each of those relies on my favorite bread binder, mashed sweet potato and they are quick breads which don’t require much, if any resting or rising time.
When it comes to yeast breads, I’ve made plenty in my past life, but as of late (like the past 2 decades), I’ve not really been motivated. I only bring this up because I can safely say that when it comes to making a yeast-based bread, pita is a great place to start. You need only 4 ingredients of which one is water and you are rolling them flat to start with, so the intended result is more density than making loaves. That let’s you off the hook a bit because you just want your pitas to create a bit of an air pocket so you can cut them, open them and stuff them.
Help – my pitas didn’t rise
There are a few things to be mindful of when you make and bake your pita bread.
- Before you begin, check the date on the yeast. Yeast that’s out-of-date probably won’t rise.
- Use warm water to dissolve the yeast – think warm bath, not too cold and not too hot.
- Put your put the dough in a warm (not hot) place in your kitchen (or house).
- If you can't find a warm spot try heating the oven on the lowest temperature and then cut the heat so that it’s barely warm. That is a good place to tuck dough away.
- Preheat the oven before you bake. The cooking (and rising) process will be impeded if you start with an oven that isn’t at the proper temperature.
Remember, pitas that refuse to rise are still delicious and you needed an excuse to make spicy beetroot hummus or pizzas anyhow. And don’t abandon this effort. Reassess and make more, because they are darned good.
How to make whole wheat pita bread
Here’s the great news, making whole wheat pita bread is straight forward. I always start a process like this with a bit of a plan that includes where and on what I’ll be kneading the bread and gathering everything I’ll need to take me through the first process which takes the dough from inspiration to rising somewhere warm.
If you’ve checked your yeast, just add that to warm in a small bowl and allow it to dissolve. You can mix it gently with a fork to help. Set it aside for 5 minutes and measure your 2 ½ cups of flour plus 1 ½ tablespoon salt into a bowl and mix it around. I always fill a measuring cup with another cup of flour so I can add half to the dough and have some to add as I’m kneading. I take time to do this because I am notorious for getting my hands all ‘doughy’ and then reaching into the flour bag for more and well, that’s not ideal at all.
Kneading, timing and meditation
Far out maybe, but kneading can be such a relaxing activity. Just you and the dough and of course the darned timer or stopwatch you have set for 5 minutes to be sure you at least accomplish the minimum kneading time.
Before you get to the kneading, be sure to flour your surface. When you drop the dough out of the bowl, it still might be sticky. Add more flour if, as you continue kneading, the dough sticks to your hands and your rolling surface but be as sparing as possible with the flour. It’s always better to add to little than too much.
The need to knead
Besides giving us a few minutes to meditate, kneading is an important step when it comes to breads. Even my sweet potato, no yeast breads require a bit of kneading. This is because when you add flour with liquid gluten is formed and kneading makes the gluten strands longer and stronger. When you knead dough and it gets stretchy and elastic, that’s the gluten strands in action.
Kneaded dough can stretch and expand as it rises. For us pita makers, that means that your will get that big air pocket in the middle one your dough has been rolled flat and baked. Even if the dough flattens slightly when cooled, the air pocket will remain so when you cut it open, you have the perfect pocket to stuff with yummy stuff.
Let it rise
Once you are done kneading and you are all relaxed because you jammed your headphones in your ears and let the world pass by for a few minutes (or something equally relaxing), it’s time to rest. I expect that the dough may be a bit sticky after it rises and we aren’t going to coat it with oil, so add a small dusting of flour to a bowl (sides included) and cover it. I used plastic wrap that’s been dusted with flour and then I cover that loosely over the top. It works pretty well too.
Roll and go
Once your dough has rested and risen, you want to get started getting them rolled out and baked. I usually start by preheating the oven, so I am ready to pop the pita bread into the oven. I’ve learned that if you linger too long, your pitas can start to stick to the bottom of the baking tray or that elasticity kicks in and they start shrinking right before your eyes. If you want to make your pitas in batches, leave the remaining dough in balls and roll them flat after the first round is baked.
Maybe you don’t call yourself a baker, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be. Maybe you think you can’t make changes in your life or your approach to food, but what you think isn’t always what can happen. Just like kneading dough, a bit of effort (and meditation) helps create the strength and resistance that makes rising possible - no matter how flat things might be at the moment. Peace.Print
Make whole wheat pita bread: oil free recipe
Learn how easy it is to make healthier, oil-free whole wheat pita bread and you won’t ever buy it again. Flour, yeast, salt and water –the best pitas ever!
- Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes (mostly inactive)
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 pitas 1x
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
- 1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
- 2 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
- 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ tsp. salt
- Add the warm water to a small bowl and sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of yeast over. Gently stir with a spoon and allow the yeast to sit for about 5 minutes until it is fully dissolved.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine 2 2/1 cups of flour and 1 ½ tsp. salt. Mix the salt in so it is evenly distributed. Measure out another cup of flour so you have it handy for kneading.
- Add the yeast and water to the bowl and start mixing with a spoon until you get a shaggy dough and all the flour is wet.
- Knead: Sprinkle some of the reserved flour onto you clean kneading surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough with your hands for about 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. Stop and rest if your hands get tired and then resume the kneading. Try not to add more than another ½ cup of the reserved flour. It’s better to add too little than too much.
- Rise: Clean out the bowl you used to mix the dough and either add a bit of flour to the bottom or sides or alternatively, lightly flour a sheet of plastic wrap. Place the dough either directly in the bowl or on the plastic wrap and into the bowl. Cover the bowl with the remaining plastic wrap or a cloth to help keep it warm. Find a warm place and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours until it has almost doubled in size. let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 4500 F (2300 C). Grab the baking tray you will be using and put it the oven to heat for a few minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured and clean work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and flatten then with your hand. Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour over them. You can leave them until you are ready to bake them at this point.
- Take the heated baking tray out of the oven and let’s start making pitas.
- To shape the pitas, flour your rolling pin and work surface and roll each piece into a disc that is about a quarter of an inch thick. You can use your hands to help form a more perfect disc if you are not an adept roller. Use more flour it they start to stick. Lay each pita on your baking tray and get them immediately into the oven before they start contract (all the elasticity at work again).
- Bake the pitas for 3-4 minutes. They should start to puff up pretty quickly. You don’t need to flip them. You want them to be a bit firm to the touch. They’ll be cooking from the inside, so it won’t take long.
- Take the pitas immediately from the baking tray and cover them with a cloth. Avoid stacking them until they have completely cooled.
- If you bake the pitas in batches and wait until the first batch is done before you start rolling again so the pitas will hold their shape.
- Prep time includes the time for mixing, kneading, rising and making the pita breads.
- Once the dough has risen, you can refrigerate it and use it as needed. The dough will keep for a week in the fridge.
- Store leftover pitas in an airtight bag or container. To reheat, lightly sprinkle them with water and add them to a hot oven or toaster oven.
- To freeze pitas, separate them with parchment or waxed paper and seal in an airtight bag. Frozen pitas will keep for about 3 months.
Keywords: make whole wheat pita bread