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The pieces of dough must be rolled flat before they are placed into a hot (500F) oven. The dough should be rolled to a thickness of no more than 3/16 inch. This is the thickness of a wooden yardstick, the kind given away at country fairs, auto dealers, and paint stores. It can be used as a gauge. The oven heat generates steam inside the pita which causes the dough to puff into a ball. Later, as it cools the dough will collapse. The oven must be hot. If it is not, the piece of dough will think it is meant to be a bun, and will rise slowly but without the all- important pocket in the center.
While this is a yeast dough, it puffs because of the steam. The yeast only adds flavor and texture. Don't overpower the dough with flour or it will be too dry to allow sufficient steam to be generated. Leave the dough on the soft side. Sprinkles of flour will take care of stickiness.
Makes eight 6-inch pieces
- 2½ cups bread flour, approx.
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 package dry yeast
- 2 Tbs oil, olive oil preferred
- 1 cup hot water (120 °F - 130 °F)
- 8 x 7-inch squares of aluminum foil
- Into a large mixing bowl measure 1 cup flour and stir in the dry ingredients. Add the oil and hot water. Mix for about 30 seconds to blend and then beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for three minutes. Stir in the balance of the flour, ½ cup at a time. The dough should be a rough, shaggy mass that will clean the sides of the bowl. If the dough is moist, add a small amount of flour.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with a rhythmic motion of push-turn-fold. Knead for about 6 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 500 °F.
- Divide the dough into eight pieces. Roll into balls, cover with wax paper or a towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- With the palm of your hand, flatten each ball into a disk. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a disk about 6 inches in diameter and 3/16-inch thick. Their thinness is more important than making perfect circles. Irregularity adds charm!
- Place each round on a prepared piece of foil. Placing the rounds on the foil rather than on a baking sheet or stone allows a softer heat to surround the dough. A direct thrust of heat from a baking sheet or stone would form a crust difficult to puff.
- Carefully place 2 or 3 of the breads (on their foil) directly on an oven rack in the oven. Back for about 8 minutes, or until they are puffed. Repeat with remaining disks. Place the pitas under the broiler for 2 minutes if a browner crust is desired.
- Remove the breads from the oven and wrap in a large piece of foil. The tops will fall and there will be a pocket in the center. Serve warm, or let cool and freeze. Thaw before using. To reheat, stack several in a pile, wrap in foil, and place in 375 °F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.