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Perfect khoubz (Pita bread) - getting a good puff

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Having no local Arabic bakery, I have long hoped to learn to make good khoubz at home. Every time I try, however, my bread is too stiff and tough. I have been successfully making other breads using The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and now wonder if my bread woule benefit from an overnight ferment in the refrigerator.

FoodMan (and anyone) can you help me?


Edited by Smithy Adjusted title (log)

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Having no local Arabic bakery, I have long hoped to learn to make good khoubz at home.  Every time I try, however, my bread is too stiff and tough.  I have been successfully making other breads using The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and now wonder if my bread woule benefit from an overnight ferment in the refrigerator. 

FoodMan (and anyone) can you help me?

Hopefully this recipe will help.

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Thanks for the link. Instead of hand kneading, have you ever used the KitchenAid mixer? I could try hand kneading, but I don't know if my arm will hold out for 10 minutes!

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I love the fact that they are soooo chewy... what is different about khobz that makes it so chewy? For example, why is it so chewy compared to a white loaf with a similar composition (flour, yeast, salt, water, sugar) ?

I am also still having difficulty making them properly - mine either don't puff up, or come out brittle and hard.

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I love the fact that they are soooo chewy... what is different about khobz that makes it so chewy? For example, why is it so chewy compared to a white loaf with a similar composition (flour, yeast, salt, water, sugar) ?

I am also still having difficulty making them properly - mine either don't puff up, or come out brittle and hard.

I have made FoodMan's recipe many, many times and I use the KA for the kneading. For a brief time I had trouble with them not puffing but through trial and error learned that it is IMPERATIVE that they do not stick to anything while they rest - not to each other, not to the surface where they are resting. Once I figured this out, they all puff beautifully. It is also important to cook just until they puff, turn them over and cook for no more than 1 minute! I have a bottom-of-line electric oven and no baking stone - I cook them on the underside of a half-sheet baking pan. As soon as they are cooked transfer them to a large bowl lined with a dish towel and cover them, deflate them gently and watch out for steam burns! Use an extra thickness of towel to gently deflate them. This recipe rocks!

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Thanks for that Anna, so you flour everything to avoid the sticking? Did you find it worked best with the dough quite moist or dry? Also did you find that the puffing was effected by how thin you rolled them out?

Thanks again for the pointers - will give it a go over the weekend :-).

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Thanks for that Anna, so you flour everything to avoid the sticking? Did you find it worked best with the dough quite moist or dry? Also did you find that the puffing was effected by how thin you rolled them out?

Thanks again for the pointers - will give it a go over the weekend :-).

I found rice flour to work much better for dusting them to prevent sticking. I would describe my dough as neither moist nor particularly dry but rather "baby-bottom satiny smooth"! I make a lot of slack doughs for other breads and would say that this is not in that category at all. I have not experimented with different thicknesses when rolling out - I try for about 1/8 inch. This recipe seems to be very forgiving so I would give it shot and see how you do.

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Thanks Anna for all the tips. Makes a lot of sense, I will probably add some of your notes to the recipe especially the "baby-bottom satiny smooth" description :smile:.

The chewiness BTW is probably due to the fact that this type of bread is all crust and no crumb. So, I would guess that is you use the exact same recipe and make it into a boule shape, it will not be that chewy.

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Accidentaly today I was making some stuffed borks/pide and had aleft over so since I was also making lamb koftas for dinner had tow chunck of dough flattened rolled pin them and made pita style bread they come puffy, pliable and delicious out of the heavy iron pan.

300 grams of bakers flour

1 tablespoon of yeast

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 cup of thick yogurt

1 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoon oil

made the dough until soft and would not stick anymore

rested until double its size

cut and shaped in small balls

rolled them and flattened with rollin pin

let them raise a bit but not too much

place one in hot iron pan for 10 seconds and turn it over to continue cooking turning several times to prevent burning

My son loved it and immediately filled the pocket with salad and the sliced koftas

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Thanks to all of your suggestions, I made my most successful pita yesterday. My arab mother-in-law was a bit jealous in fact! It seems my pita puffed up much better than hers ever does.

I was perhaps overly cautious about leaving the bread in too long, and took it out as soon as it puffed fully. I think I will leave it in a bit longer next time. I also over floured my work surface and so there was too much residual flour on the outside. Lastly, I am thinking of leaving the dough in the refrigerator overnight to see if a slow fermentation will enrich the flavor.

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Thanks to all of your suggestions, I made my most successful pita yesterday.  My arab mother-in-law was a bit jealous in fact!  It seems my pita puffed up much better than hers ever does.

I was perhaps overly cautious about leaving the bread in too long, and took it out as soon as it puffed fully.  I think I will leave it in a bit longer next time.  I also over floured my work surface and so there was too much residual flour on the outside.  Lastly, I am thinking of leaving the dough in the refrigerator overnight to see if a slow fermentation will enrich the flavor.

Try just using a pastry brush to get rid of the excess flour before you pop them in the oven - works for me.

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Thanks to all for the tips; I made the pita yesterday using Foodman's recipe and Anna's hints, and the bread turned out beautifully for the most part. I had two pitas that just didn't seem to want to puff up. Anyone have an idea why this happened? Was it my rolling out? The initial bubble (which starts the puff) never appeared. :unsure:

Thanks!

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Hi all,

I'm looking for the secret. Obviously the pita has to be rolled out thinly, but is there also a special preparation that leads to thinner pita with a very large diameter, like I've had at some falafel places? I think it is Lebanese style.

I tried Foodman's recipe and it tastes great, but as he mentioned, they are just a little bit too thick. Also, I personally had trouble getting them to puff. My first one puffed beautifully, but the others only puffed on one side or the other (left or right). I'm wondering if I should add more water next time and simply use more flour on the board I roll it out on in order to keep it from sticking. That might result in perfect puffing due to the extra steam. Any thoughts? In terms of the thickness, should I try adding a little cake flour in with the all-purpose flour to allow them to roll out finer?

Also, I've seen recipes with and without olive oil as an addition. Does anyone know, aside from flavor, how olive oil impacts the pita. Does it help or hinder the puffing?

Thank you for any tips.

Best,

Alan

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We have a consistent supply of excellent Pita bread. We only make them when we need mini pitas for Hors d'oeuvres (mini burgers).

The two most important variables that determine whether rounds puff or not are:

- A rest period after you roll the dough.

- Oven temperature.

The first one is easy, the rounds have to rest 15 to 20 minutes before they go in the oven. The second one is tricky. Oven temperature has to be high enough to puff the bread and give it a golden color before too much moisture is lost.

After baking, the pitas should cool to room temperature and remain soft (for a short period of time, pita bread will dry out in minutes if not placed in plastic bags immediately after cooling). If they turn hard, your oven is not hot enough and you're having to bake them too long.

If the first batch puffed and a consequent batch didn't, could be because first batch had a longer resting period while the oven preheated, or the second batch was placed in the oven soon after you removed the first without allowing the oven to make up for lost heat.

Other than flavor, oil can make pita bread less chewy (we like chewy) but will also cause it to stay softer longer when exposed to air. Used is excess will make the bread crumbly.

I don't think oil effects puffing either way.

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Hi Chef,

Thank you for the feedback. I had used a baking stone with 500 F setting. Would you recommend even using a higher heat setting, such as 550 F?

I also recall that the one that did puff was the first one I cooked, so the oven was nice and hot, and it had also had the longest amount of time to rest; perhaps 25 minutes. So perhaps that is another problem. Next time I'll let the rolled pita rest longer and let the oven reheat longer.

If the oil impacts the chewiness, then perhaps that means that it slightly impacts the extent to which the gluten develops, and if that is the case, perhaps the pita will roll out a bit more thinly with the addition of a bit of olive oil. Any thoughts?

Finally, I was partially wondering if my dough was a bit dry. I added just enough to make it workable without sticking to everything. Perhaps I should have added a bit more water and then simply have floured the rolling surface well? Do you have any experiences that would lead you to think that this might have been a problem?

Best,

Alan

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to get the Perfect Pita's lebanese/israeli style is to use the Original Lebanese Pita Pot that is used all throughout the Middle East in restaurants and in nearly every single home. :smile:

It has the perfect temperature for pitas and they only take around 30sec to bake :shock:

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I have made Foodman's recipe many times. I have also tried other recipes using oil and a little sugar.

The secret to puffing is to make sure you dough doesn't stick to the counter. Someone suggested using rice flour when rolling the dough and I find that works very well. I also let my dough rise longer than Foodman (Elie) suggests.

My problem with all of the recipes is I can't get my pitas to brown - ehnce the additions of oil and sugar. I was told by a Lebanese deli owner here that sugar is the key - but still, no luck.

I haven't tried temps higher than 500 - will give it a hot if my oven can get that hot.

We don't have any local Arabic bakeries, so good pita is hard to come by.

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I have made Foodman's recipe many times.  I have also tried other recipes using oil and a little sugar. 

The secret to puffing is to make sure you dough doesn't stick to the counter. Someone suggested using rice flour when rolling the dough and I find that works very well.  I also let my dough rise longer than Foodman (Elie) suggests.

My problem with all of the recipes is I can't get my pitas to brown - ehnce the additions of oil and sugar.  I was told by a Lebanese deli owner here that sugar is the key - but still, no luck.

I haven't tried temps higher than 500 - will give it a hot if my oven can get that hot.

We don't have any local Arabic bakeries, so good pita is hard to come by.

I think I said that in the recipe/class as well, but I cannot get them to brown either. If they do brown, they are overcooked and crispy by then. The key unfortunatly is, I think, much higher heat and flame from the sides, not just the bottom. See in the commercial ovens, the flame goes up the sides and the top of the bread browns fast, not so in the home oven. Now! if there is a way wot have the 'Bake' and 'Broil' turned on at the same time...

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I think I said that in the recipe/class as well, but I cannot get them to brown either. If they do brown, they are overcooked and crispy by then. The key unfortunatly is, I think, much higher heat and flame from the sides, not just the bottom. See in the commercial ovens, the flame goes up the sides and the top of the bread browns fast, not so in the home oven. Now! if there is a way wot have the 'Bake' and 'Broil' turned on at the same time...

I wonder if a good heavy ceramic liner in the oven, right up the sides, would do the trick? That would get the heat more evenly distributed. I'm too cheap to spend the money on an expensive oven insert, but I've been considering the purchase of a lot of firebrick, now that I know what a difference my baking stone makes.

Along the same line of thinking, I wonder whether a convection oven cranked way high would more nearly mimic the over/under flames of the commercial oven. Has anyone here tried that?

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the hottest oven you can get will help a lot. most commercial pita ovens in the Middle East run well over 600 degrees.

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I wonder if this

for Roti would work for Pitas.

Link was provided by v. gautam on another thread.

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From the help of this thread I made pita for the first time tonight. I even got a perfect pocket, which surprised and delighted me no end. I never thought pita would be something I would make myself, but I was wrong.

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I should point out there are types of bread in Lebanon that would fall under the "pita" designation (this term is unknown in the Arab world).

Both are round and have a pocket. What's sold in stores and bakeries, and eaten at home, is SUPER thin (like, no more than 2-3mm), and often very large in diameter (possibly over a foot). It is very chewy, in a good way. This is served at restaurants cut into triangles and presented in a baggie, because it dries out and goes stale extremely quickly. This sort is what's used for shawarmas, falafels, and other sandwiches, as a wrap, NOT as a "pocket sandwich."

The other type I only ever see in nicer restaurants - it's fresh baked, thicker, less chewy, and smaller, no more than 6" in diameter. They're always served straight from the oven, and are very soft to begin with, but get a bit harder if they sit out over the course of the meal.

I would imagine that the latter type is easier to make. JoNorvelleWalker, could you post a picture of what you made?

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I should point out there are types of bread in Lebanon that would fall under the "pita" designation (this term is unknown in the Arab world).

Both are round and have a pocket. What's sold in stores and bakeries, and eaten at home, is SUPER thin (like, no more than 2-3mm), and often very large in diameter (possibly over a foot). It is very chewy, in a good way. This is served at restaurants cut into triangles and presented in a baggie, because it dries out and goes stale extremely quickly. This sort is what's used for shawarmas, falafels, and other sandwiches, as a wrap, NOT as a "pocket sandwich."

The other type I only ever see in nicer restaurants - it's fresh baked, thicker, less chewy, and smaller, no more than 6" in diameter. They're always served straight from the oven, and are very soft to begin with, but get a bit harder if they sit out over the course of the meal.

I would imagine that the latter type is easier to make. JoNorvelleWalker, could you post a picture of what you made?

'Pita' around here is used for quite a variety of flat breads in terms of thickness, pliability and diameter. I have had some as thick as, say, an Oreo, and very soft at Israeli places (and they've been called Yemeni style pitas?). What are the names of the two Lebanese varieties you described?

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I've posted this before but can't find the topic.

This is a very easy recipe and produces a thin, tender and PUFFY pita.

Here is my recipe: This is so much better than store bought.

Pita Bread Very easy

2-1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (I add 2 tablespoons if all I have is all-purpose flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons rapid-rise or "instant" yeast
2 tablespoons oil, olive or canola or grape seed.
1-1/4 cups water room temp.

Measure the flour (unsifted) into a large bowl.
Add the salt, yeast and oil.
Make a "well" in the center of the flour and pour in the water.
Using your hands, bring the flour into the water and continue mixing until a ball of dough is formed.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 15 minutes.

(If you have a mixer that has a dough hook you can place all ingredients into the mixing bowl, blend until ingredients form a ball then continue mixing for about 10 minutes with the mixer set on lowest speed. Or you can use a food processor add all the dry ingredients, pulse briefly to mix, add the oil and pulse. Then, with the processor running, slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball, usually takes only about 20 seconds total.

The dough should feel silky and soft but not flabby, when a thumb is pressed into the dough it should fill in quickly.

Spray the inside of a large Zip-lock bag with Pam or similar oil spray.
Place the dough ball into the bag and seal.
Set aside to rise until it has doubled in size.
At normal room temp this should be about an hour to an hour and a half.
Turn the dough out onto the floured board, knead 3 or 4 times then stretch into a fat cylinder.
Cut in half, then cut the halves in half, and so on, so that you end up with 8 pieces of dough.

Roll the pieces into balls and press flat into a disk.
Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with oil, place disks on it then cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Set aside to rest for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 475 degrees, F.

Using a rolling pin, flatten the disks on a lightly floured board and roll into about a 6-inch circle.
They should be about 1/4 inch thick or slightly less.

If you have a baking stone you can bake the pita directly on it, mist the stone with water before placing the pita on the hot stone then mist the pita.

Otherwise, place the pita on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place on center shelf in oven.

Mist the pita and close the oven door.

Watch closely. In about 3-4 minutes the pita will have blown up like a balloon and are done. They should not brown, but might show a little color around the edges.

Immediately remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Depending on the size of your oven you should be able to bake 3 or 4 at a time.
You have to leave room above the pita for them to expand.

To reheat, fold into a kitchen towel and heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds.

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