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Fat Guy

The pocket in pita

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Can somebody please explain to me in "for dummies" manner how it is that the pocket magically appears in pita when you bake them?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steam.

That's why your oven has to be blazing hot and your dough moist in order for the magic to happen.

Then again, it could just be those pixies...


Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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Amazing, isn't it. I made pita once, and was astounded to watch each piece puff up and form its own pocket. (Admittedly this was about thirty years ago, but it still amazes me.) I remember having to slice the log of dough into 30 separate pieces, and knead each piece individually before baking. (Then I moved to the middle east and never even considered baking my own pita.)

I have a related question: what is this stuff I keep seeing in supermarkets (but have not yet dared purchase) called "pocketless pita"? I mean, what's the point? :wacko:

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(Then I moved to the middle east and never even considered baking my own pita.)

I have a related question: what is this stuff I keep seeing in supermarkets (but have not yet dared purchase) called "pocketless pita"? I mean, what's the point? :wacko:

I've read that "authentic" pita doesn't actually have a pocket - is this not the case?

I accidentally made pocket-less pita a few weeks ago. They could have doubled as frisbees. My guess is that either my oven wasn't hot enough or I didn't roll the dough thin enough. Anyone else have an idea?

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(Then I moved to the middle east and never even considered baking my own pita.)

I have a related question: what is this stuff I keep seeing in supermarkets (but have not yet dared purchase) called "pocketless pita"? I mean, what's the point?  :wacko:

I've read that "authentic" pita doesn't actually have a pocket - is this not the case?

I accidentally made pocket-less pita a few weeks ago. They could have doubled as frisbees. My guess is that either my oven wasn't hot enough or I didn't roll the dough thin enough. Anyone else have an idea?

I've never seen pita without a pocket, ever. I don't know if it was originally like that. The word technically just refers to bread, or a loaf ("pat lechem" meaning a loaf of bread), but in modern Hebrew pita is the round flat bread with the pocket. I mean, where would you put your felafel otherwise? :wink:

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I mean, where would you put your felafel otherwise? :wink:

Very true. I think that's why there's a pocket in the first place :laugh:


Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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(Then I moved to the middle east and never even considered baking my own pita.)

I have a related question: what is this stuff I keep seeing in supermarkets (but have not yet dared purchase) called "pocketless pita"? I mean, what's the point?  :wacko:

I've read that "authentic" pita doesn't actually have a pocket - is this not the case?

I accidentally made pocket-less pita a few weeks ago. They could have doubled as frisbees. My guess is that either my oven wasn't hot enough or I didn't roll the dough thin enough. Anyone else have an idea?

Pita in Lebanon (simply called Arabic bread) ALWAYS has a pocket.

link to Pita bread recipe

FatGuy-

Are you trying to make pita and it is not working out or you simply want to know the science behind the process?


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I've read that "authentic" pita doesn't actually have a pocket - is this not the case?

I always thought pita was the Middle Eastern word for the Turkish pide which doesn't have a steamed center and the Greek pitta which has a filling.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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But Greek pita has no pocket, right? At least the ones that they use for Souvlaki-type sandwiches.

Also Yemenite pita has no pockets either, its essentially a giant tortilla.

In Israel I've had felafel sandwiches on various kinds of pita, including Yemenite, which is more of a wrap-type deal. Not all of them had pockets.

My favorite pita is of the puffy, Syrian variety, actually.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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In Israel I've had felafel sandwiches on various kinds of pita, including Yemenite, which is more of a wrap-type deal. Not all of them had pockets.

Hmmm, y'see, everything in the world boils down to semantics. :rolleyes:

Those Yemenite wrap-type things are called, in Hebrew, "aish tanoor." If you want one of those, you wouldn't ask for a pita, because if you did you'd get, well, a pita, and not an aish tanoor.

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Can somebody please explain to me in "for dummies" manner how it is that the pocket magically appears in pita when you bake them?

You have these things:

  • A thin disk of (relatively moist) dough.
  • A slab of thermal material (e.g., baking stone, hearth of traditional oven, whatever).
  • A hot oven.

You then slap said disk of dough onto said slab of thermal material, causing heat to shoot into the dough. This heat has two effects: 1. the leavening microorganisms go into a brief overdrive before expiring from the heat, thus producing lots of gas; 2. some of the water contained in the dough also turns into gaseous form. At the same time, the heat of the oven "sets" the top part of the dough sufficiently to trap gas.

So, at this point, we have a whole lot of gas being produced in a very short period of time. We also have a well "set" bottom crust and a somewhat "set" top crust on the dough, and a very thin interior. Under these conditions, there aren't a lot of places the gas can go. The expanding gas therefore tends to "blow out" all the little cells in the interior of the thin dough and form one large gas bubble sandwiched between the bottom and top crusts. The result is that the whole thing blows up like a baloon, forming a "pocket" in the interior of the thin bread. Voila: pita.

The same thing will happen with any leavened dough that is sufficiently thin, unless the dough is treated to mitigate this effect. This is why cracker dough is docked, why ciabatta dough is poked with the fingers, etc.


--

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I doubt I'll ever make pita. I just want to know how the damn process works.

You really should give them a try. It's probably the easiest, fastest yeasted bread you can make, and soooo good warm out of the oven. You can keep the dough in the fridge for several days and bake as needed. "Baking with Julia" has a good recipe.

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But why does the steam cause a pocket, and not just a lot of air bubble?

And perhaps someone can proffer a picture about the puffing of pooris?

(ok ok, that didn't work.)

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I've read that "authentic" pita doesn't actually have a pocket - is this not the case?

I always thought pita was the Middle Eastern word for the Turkish pide which doesn't have a steamed center and the Greek pitta which has a filling.

I guess it depends on what one means by "authentic." It seems like people use the word pita to refer interchangeably to greek and middle eastern styles. I have to admit I never heard the word "pita" before coming to the U.S., I assumed it refered to a greek or turkish product.

FWIW, most levantine arabic breads I have had experience with had a pocket or at least some sort of double layer...though the layering is more obvious in some types than others. But I guess the question is whether those were "pita".

Oh, and I've gotten that effect when making tortillas too.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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But why does the steam cause a pocket, and not just a lot of air bubble?

And perhaps someone can proffer a picture about the puffing of pooris?

(ok ok, that didn't work.)

Pity.

Please peruse the pertinent pate a chou...

Sorry. Similar concept, though.


Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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Those Yemenite wrap-type things are called, in Hebrew, "aish tanoor." If you want one of those, you wouldn't ask for a pita, because if you did you'd get, well, a pita, and not an aish tanoor.

See, that is really cool. "Aish" means life, which is a common word for bread in some places. Tanoor is the clay over it's baked in. So basically it is literally "clay oven bread".

"Tanoor", or "Saj" bread would describe this rustic-style bread if you were in Lebanon or Syria. I think the difference in texture comes from it being almost seared against the walls of the oven, more like Indian Naan, as opposed to the stuff baked in industrial ovens that we would get in cities.

My free form geek-out is now over, sorry :smile:

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I doubt I'll ever make pita. I just want to know how the damn process works.

You really should give them a try. It's probably the easiest, fastest yeasted bread you can make, and soooo good warm out of the oven. You can keep the dough in the fridge for several days and bake as needed. "Baking with Julia" has a good recipe.

I'm with Neil on this one. Pita is way easy to make, and it's great fun to watch them puff up and do their little dance as they bake. Plus you've got total control over the ingredients / toppings. I like sesame.

I accidentally made pocket-less pita a few weeks ago.  They could have doubled as frisbees.  My guess is that either my oven wasn't hot enough or I didn't roll the dough thin enough.  Anyone else have an idea?

The pitas need to be reasonably round and even in thickness. It should be about the thickness of your earlobe after it rises, but I don't think the thickness is really critical. You need to let them rest for a few minutes after you've rolled them out. Be sure to cover them with a damp towel; dried-out pita won't puff.

The oven needs to be hot, and using a pizza stone or cast-iron griddle helps. I usually spritz them with a little water just before closing the oven door. After they puff and are just starting to brown, toss them in a clean paper bag and let them steam for a few minutes - that way they have a chance to collapse slowly rather than getting gummy or overly crisp.

Making pita is easier than describing the process. :blink:

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I don't think the thickness is really critical.

I find that size, or in this case thickness, does matter. If roll them out either too thic, or too thin, I don't get a nice even pocket.


Nuthin' says luvin'...

www.kyleskitchen.net

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in the basic baking class at school, we made both pocketed and pocketless pita bread. the pocketed bread was fabulous, sturdy yet soft and a tad crispy and quite tasty. the pocketless was just... well... flat. in many senses. and yet both were made with the same dough, just different baking temps. i didn't get it then, and i still don't get it. any ideas about this from actual bakers? *grins*


"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

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I doubt I'll ever make pita. I just want to know how the damn process works.

Come on, Fat Guy. If I can, you can.

Couldn't resist trying after reading this thread and they really are EASY.

Give it shot just once and put the science into practice.

(If all the planets are aligned, I should have my very own digital camera sometime this evening! The next time I make pita I will post photos.)


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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