Disaster: Pocket-less Pitas

Pocketless Pitas | Dinner of Herbs

Twice I have failed.

Third time’s a charm?  Probably not….I think I have had it with trying to make homemade pita.

I attempted pita for the first time last summer.  The recipe claimed that the pitas puffed every time.  Well, I guess I had rebellious pitas, because mine stayed resolutely flat.

The yeast, proofing.  Like nothing's wrong.
The yeast, proofing. Like nothing’s wrong.

As the memory of last year’s failure dimmed and grew ever more distant, I became hopeful once more.  I found a new recipe–a recipe that even promised light “magic” 4-inch pitas!

Let’s just say there was no magic happening in the oven here today.  [Sidenote:  I rarely post things the same day I make them…so by the time this gets posted, 2 weeks will have probably passed since this disaster.]

Still, everything looks just fine.
Still, everything looks just fine.

Mmmm…dense doughy hockey pucks!  Not very flavourful either, since the recipe includes no butter, shortening, oil, eggs, or sugar.  To be fair, I think they would be perfectly fine, IF I could get them to puff!  I do not know what I am doing wrong, because my yeast proofed just fine, and the dough was rising!  I even measured the thickness of the pitas to make sure I did not make them too thin!  I guess I will just have to admit defeat on this one.

Whyyyy?  So flat and dense...it's too thick to be used as flatbread!
Whyyyy? So flat and dense…it’s too thick to be used as flatbread!
I may have ripped this 'pita' into pieces out of frustration.  Maybe.
I may have ripped this ‘pita’ into pieces out of frustration. Maybe.

45 thoughts on “Disaster: Pocket-less Pitas

  1. I’ve successfully made pita using several different recipes and have come to the conclusion that the recipe isn’t important! LOL!!! It’s technique, and that seems to vary a bit from one person to the next, so don’t give up on experimenting! The two methods that have worked best for me are:

    1. Heat a cast iron griddle on medium heat. Do NOT oil the pan. The dough does NOT have to rise before cooking, at all, though it can if you want. Make sure it’s rolled thin–like 1/8″–toss it on that pan. Do NOT cover. when there are bubbles all over, flip it (about a minute–MAYBE enough time to roll out the next one). Within one minute, you’ll usually have a balloon sitting on your pan. Flip it off & move on to the next, keeping the cooked ones wrapped in a towel to stay warm.

    2. Bake on an inverted cookie sheet on the bottom of the oven at 450f for about 3 minutes. You should have bread balloons, and you can fit 2-3 of them on that sheet.

    Good luck and let us know what you try, and what works for YOU!

    1. Thanks for the tips! It is good to hear that the technique is what is important, because most recipes I have found are all pretty much exactly the same, so I was running out of options ingredient-wise.

    2. Yay! This is great advice. I completely agree that it’s the technique rather than the recipe. Just last week i tried a new pita recipe. The dough came out like pie crust dough and I was mortified. Yet, I used my same technique to bake them, and they puffed up beautifully, and were tasty. I was thinking of using the same recipe to make “elephant ears” with sugar and cinnamon because that’s what they reminded me of. But they were a perfect accompaniment to my homemade gyro sandwiches.

      Instead of the cast iron pan, I use a pizza stone, with the oven as hot as it can go. I get all the pitas rolled and ready to go because the cooking goes fast, and at those temperatures, you don’t want to be fooling around. Since I was only making 8 large ones this time, I did them one at a time. They puffed up in about 15 or 20 seconds, and it only took 5 to 7 seconds on the flip side.

      Not to do if you have little ones around, obviously, because you’re working with the oven door open.

      1. Mmm, elephant ears…I haven’t had one in so long! Anyway, thanks for the tips–and no, I do not have to worry about little ones, for several more years at least, if all goes according to plan. 🙂

  2. I haven’t braved trying to make pitas yet, but wanted to give you a heads up on pizza stones. Keep watch a couple of months before Christmas as kitchen supply stores or home decor discount shops like Home Sense. I nabbed two sets with cooling racks, pizza cutters and the stones for only ten dollars each 😉

  3. Try this: (beware, my recipes are kind of old fashioned in their lack of detail) To 1 cup good sourdough starter add about a teaspoon of salt and enough flour to make a medium/soft dough. Knead until smooth. Divide into 4 to 6 equal sized balls and flatten them. Let rest for about 30 minutes. Roll the balls out to about 1/4 inch, cover and let rise a couple of hours (they won’t rise much.) Heat a good heavy griddle and maintain a medium heat – too hot and they’ll scorch, too cool and they’ll be doughy. Cook the rounds about 4 to 6 minutes per side, larger ones take longer. You’ll know when they’re ready to flip when there are dime to quarter sized bubbles all over the surface. Cover them while cooking with a domed lid. I use the one from my stew pot on a 10 inch griddle. Try not to peak too much, especially after flipping. They’ll puff up like balloons. I brush them with olive oil spiked with herbs and garlic after cooking.

    This isn’t an “authentic” recipe, just something I figured while trying to beat the heat in my off-grid (no a/c) kitchen. I wasn’t even shooting for a pita with a picked. LOL Interestingly, a regular yeast dough prepared the same way won’t puff. Also, I don’t add any oil as I find that with griddle cooked flat breads it can make them kind of gummy.

    1. Thanks for the tips about the oil. I also like the idea of using oil with herbs in it–that would add some flavour, definitely! It sounds rather similar to my naan flatbread recipe, except that it puffs. Thanks!

  4. You could try my recipe as they have always worked and even the ones that don’t puff up still have the pocket when you open them. I have been using dried yeast recently though. I think heating the baking tray probably helps too.

  5. Don’t give up on pitas!
    You should definitely try using a very hot cookie sheet (I don’t have a pizza stone, but any sheet will work, if it is properly heated!).
    Also you should definitely use a little oil there, I think. And when I knead individual pieces of dough, I flatted them slightly with my hands, and then fold them incorporating some air, and only then use a rolling pin to roll them out, fairly thinly. I do think the main thing is to have a well-heated sheet though 🙂

  6. Awwww i hate it when things don’t work like they should. I always feel so cheated. I’m gluten free and I can tell u that pittas without gluten never rise and puff so maybe pass off your pitta as gluten free! Good luck if you do decide to try again! P.s I’d have thrown the pittas at the wall or something so I think ripping it up is a very measured and appropriate response 🙂

    1. Haha, maybe I should do that! (As long as I don’t run into anyone with Celiac’s disease…that would just be cruel.) And thanks, I try to keep my frustration in check. It’s not easy with this red hair…but I try. 🙂

    1. I cannot actually remember what recipe I tried the first time around…I deleted it in frustration soon after my flat hockey puck-pitas came out of the oven, haha. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. sorry ’bout that–this one really does look like a lost cause 😉 THOUGH, I posted pitas a few weeks back (you were there so maybe you tried and it wasn’t a go) and I’ve always done well with that recipe. Have never gotten a 4″ puff (her pictures were amazing!) and sometimes there’s no pocket at all. Seems to depend on not rolling them too thinly. But even without a pocket, they’re great flatbreads–slightly sweet and also earthy from the ww flour. If you’re ever ready to get back in the saddle, here’s a recipe: http://wp.me/p2dvv9-Rr

    1. I have not tried your recipe yet–I have had this recipe sitting around for a few months that I’ve been meaning to try, so I used it first. I’ve gained at least 3 more pita recipes so far, just from helpful comments on this post–I think I may have a side-by-side comparison of mini batches of the different recipes coming up in the future. Once I recover from the traumatization of failing pitas TWICE, that is. 🙂 I do like that yours includes whole wheat flour, and they still puffed. That is encouraging.

  8. Don’t give up on the pittas!

    The ones you have posted are way too thick which i think it’s why they haven’t puffed. They need to be only a few millimetres thiick when you roll them out, like almost as thin as you can make them. Also, I think some olive oil is essential, and the sugar helps give a better rise as the yeast ‘eats’ it.

    My recipe is here: http://chillisageandlemon.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/a-middle-eastern-inspired-veggie-feast/ and I’m not going to promise they puff EVERY time because in every batch of 8, one or two tend not to puff (but still taste nice) but these are ALWAYS the ones I rolled out too thick. Hope this helps!

    1. The recipe specifically said to not roll it too thin, and said 1/4″ thick…and now I am getting advice to roll it thin…and some advice to not roll it thin. I think I am going to have to make a batch where half of the pitas are thin, and half are not-as-thin to get to the bottom of this! I did add the tiniest bit of sugar to the yeast, since I do know it is important for the yeast while it is proofing. And I will definitely use your advice about adding olive oil next time, because this was tough and dry. Not good!
      Maybe next time (if I can convince myself to try again!) I will use your recipe. Thanks for the advice!

    1. Yes! If there is a next time, I think I will be adding a little oil, so that if it stays flat, at least it will taste good! I’m glad I’m not the only one with minor anger management issues towards food that doesn’t turn out right. 🙂

    1. Hmm, the recipe I used specifically said to roll them to 1/4″ thickness, and that rolling them thinner would prevent puffing. I see that you mentioned making them 1/8″ thick, so if I attempt this again, I think I will try that instead. Thanks!

      1. Heck, I’m betting if you used one of the techniques described above, you could use your Sweet Potato Pizza Crust recipe to make them. Now *that* would be something to crow about — something unique. I’m linking to your blog in my new blog post.

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