There are so many things that once I make them at home, I can never go back to store-bought: pizza dough (more on that soon), salsa, ice cream, and definitely pita bread. Homemade pita is so soft and flavorful it makes its store-bought counterpart seem like a circle of cardboard. Since my favorite dinner is chicken gyros, the pita are an integral part of the meal. Most recently I decided to try this version of wheat pita bread for comparison to my old favorite, as an attempt to get a few more whole grains into my diet. Guess what? These pita are every bit as good as the old version but they are a bit healthier, they have a fabulous puffy texture, and the dough was even easier to work with. Win-win-win! (The Office, anyone?) It seems these will become my new go-to pita because really, why not?
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
1½ cups bread flour, divided
1½ cups whole wheat flour, divided
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Cornmeal, for sprinkling
In the bowl of a stand mixer*, combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water. Stir gently to blend. Whisk ¼ cup of the bread flour and ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap and return the bowl to the mixer stand, fitted with the dough hook. Add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 1¼ cups bread flour, 1¼ cups whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt. Knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and let rise in a warm draft-free place, about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Place an oven rack in the middle position. Place a baking stone in the oven (if using) and preheat to 500˚ F.
Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle. Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet or other work surface lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Once all the rounds have been shaped, loosely cover with clean kitchen towels. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, until slightly puffy.
Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, onto the baking surface. (Note: These can be baked on a baking stone or directly on the oven racks. I use a pizza stone, but either method is fine.) Bake 2 minutes, until puffed and pale golden. Gently flip the pitas over using tongs and bake 1 minute more. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining pitas. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
*As always, anything mixed in a stand mixer can be mixed by hand.