Sourdough Pita Flatbread
Pita flatbreads have been made for generations in Greece. They were traditionally, and still often are, made using a sourdough starter. Research has shown that sourdough bread has health benefits including decreasing the amount of gluten and sugar in the flour, and an increase in the availability of vitamins and minerals through the fermentation process.
This recipe reproduces what I remember growing up; a chewy, earthy pita perfect for dipping into hummus or for wrapping grilled chicken souvlakis.
It's worth taking the time to make homemade bread because many store brands can have more than 20 ingredients/additives. This recipe has just 4.
Here are the ingredients of a popular store brand of Pita bread:
Unbleached Unbromated Enriched Flour (Niacin (B-complex Vitamin), Thiamine (B1 Vitamin), Reduced Iron, Riboflavin (B2 Vitamin), Folic Acid), Water, and Soybean Oil. Contains 2% or less of each of the following ingredients: Calcium Propionate (a preservative), Dextrose, Fumaric Acid, Guar Gum, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrin, Monocalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sesame Flour, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sorbic Acid, Soy Flour, Soy Protein Concentrate, Sugar, Vegetable L-Cysteine, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Wheat Enzymes, Whole Wheat Flour, and Yeast.
Greek islanders eat healthier bread, usually homemade sourdough made from local grains. This recipe is made from fermented, sprouted, sourdough whole grains. I think that makes it one of the healthiest breads you can make.
I credit Chad Robertson and his excellent book, Tartine, for teaching me about sourdough breads. If you're interested in a detailed description/explanation of sourdough fermentation and baking, it's an excellent reference.
Because there are several steps, and some planning is involved, I've included my time frame for reference as well as some common terminology.
Starter- A mix of flour and water, I use equal parts. You use this to make your levain. Read how to make a starter here.
Levain- Made from your starter, added to your bread ingredients, starts the fermentation process and makes your bread rise. You save the leftover levain and that becomes your new starter.
Bulk fermentation- When all of your ingredients are mixed together and the time while fermentation is taking place.
Turn the bread- This technique replaces kneading. With your wet hand reach down the side of the bowl, grab underneath the dough, and pull it up and over itself. Give bowl 1/4 of a turn, and repeat on remaining 3 sides. Do this approximately 3-5 times during bulk fermentation.
1 week ago- Make starter, if you don't already have one that you maintain.
7:00 AM- Make levain, keep in warm place, around 70-75 degrees.
12:00 PM- Add levain to bread ingredients, except olive oil and salt. Cover with plastic wrap or towel.
12:30 PM- Add the olive oil and salt, mix well and cover
1:30 PM- Turn the bread, cover
2:30 PM- Turn the bread, cover
3:30 PM- Turn the bread, cover
8:00 PM- Spill the dough out on the counter, flour lightly, and seperate into 10-11 pieces.
8:45 PM- Shape into balls, and wrap individually with oiled plastic wrap and place on tray. Let rise 1 hour.
9:45 PM- Refrigerate.
7:00 AM (or anytime you have this day) remove from the refrigerator. Shape and cook on cast iron grill.
To Make the Levain
You're going to add your starter to the levain ingredients below. Read how to create your starter here.
starter, 75 grams
whole wheat flour, 75 grams (I use King Arthur sprouted white whole wheat, non GMO)
white flour, 75 grams, unbleached, organic (I use Farmer Ground Flour, from New York State
warm spring water, 150 grams (Don't use tap water, it may contain chlorine)
- Stir well and let sit covered in a warm place. Depending on the room temperature, it will take from 5-7 hours for your levain to be ready. You will know it's ready when you place a tablespoon of it in warm water and it floats. Add it to your pita ingredients below.
To Make Pitas
whole wheat flour, 250 grams (I use King Arthur sprouted white whole wheat, non GMO) (50%)
white flour, 250 grams, unbleached, organic (I use Farmer Ground Flour, from New York State (50%)
warm spring water, 375 grams (Don't use tap water, it may contain chlorine) (75%)
levain, 75 grams (from above) (15%)
olive oil, 15 grams (I use Greek extra virgin) (3%)
salt, 10 grams (2%)
*The percentages are bakers percentages relative to the flour which is 100%
- In a large bowl, add the levain (75 grams) and 300 grams of the water (save the other 75 grams for later) stir well.
- Add the flour and mix well with wet hands. I recommend using your hands and squeezing through your fingers. It will get sticky, but this is the best way to incorporate the ingredients. Cover, I use a towel or plastic wrap. Let sit for 30-45 minutes
- Add the remaining water (75 grams), olive oil, and salt and mix well with wet hands. Cover and place in warm area.
- Turn the dough in the bowl approximately every 30 to 60 minutes. (Turning the dough consists of using a wet hand to reach down the side of the bowl, get underneath the dough, and pull up and over on itself, turn bowl 1/4 turn and repeat on 3 remaining sides) The dough will ferment for approximately 6-7 hours. I recommend turning the dough at least 3-5 times in that time period, preferably closer to the beginning of the fermentation, as not to deflate the gas bubbles that form during the end of fermentation. Cover the dough between turns.
- Turn the dough out onto a flat surface, dust lightly with flour, and separate into 11 rounds. Let sit covered for 30 minutes.
- Shape each round into a tight ball, wrap in lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for 5-10 hours, or more if time restricts you. You can refrigerate them for 2 days if needed.
- Remove from refrigerator. Preheat cast iron flat grill pan to medium-high. Remove from plastic wrap, lightly flour both sides and press with your fingers in to a thin round disk. Make it as thin as you'd like, it will rise on the grill. Spray or wipe grill lightly with vegetable oil and place pita on top. Wait 3-4 minutes and lift a corner. When it's has several dark spots, almost burned, flip over and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove and repeat with remaining dough. Enjoy!