Pita

MAKES: 6 to 12 pitas, depending on size

TIME: At least 2 hours, somewhat unattended

You can buy pita (also called pide), of course, though it’s tough to find the real thing: the chewy, slightly puffed rounds that are the standard flatbread of the eastern Mediterranean. Luckily baking your own is a simple enough task for bread makers, even novices. As with any bread dough, you can control the time it takes to make this by slowing the rising in the refrigerator. If you’ve got a pizza stone, use it for these, though a cookie sheet is okay too. If you have the time and patience, dry-bake them on top of the stove in one or two heavy skillets. Skip the butter to make the pita vegan.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Melted butter (optional)

Combine the flour, olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it’s dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)

You can simply cover the food processor bowl with plastic wrap (remove the blade first) or turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let it rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4, or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature.)

When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 6 or more pieces; roll each piece into a round ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a little flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Roll each ball out to less than 1/4-inch thickness, using flour to prevent sticking as necessary. As you work, spread the flat disks out on a floured surface and keep them covered. When all the disks are rolled out, preheat the oven to 350В°F (the disks should rest for at least 20 minutes after rolling). If you have a pizza stone, use it, on a rack set low in the oven; if not, lightly oil a baking sheet and put it in the oven on a rack set in the middle. Alternatively, lightly oil and wipe out a heavy skillet.

To bake on a stone, slide the individual disks as many as will fit comfortably directly into the oven, using a peel or a large spatula. Or bake 2 disks at a time on a cookie sheet. Or bake over medium to medium-low heat in the skillet. For whichever method, bake pita until lightly browned on first side, then flip and brown on the other side. Total baking time will be between 5 and 10 minutes, generally only 5 or 6.

As the breads finish baking, remove them from the oven. If you’re going to eat them fairly soon, brush with melted butter. Otherwise cool, then store in wax paper or plastic bags; reheat gently before using.

Variation

Whole Wheat Pita. Substitute whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose or bread flour.