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I have the opposite problem as Amir's question about thick, fluffy pitas. Whenever I make pita, it's nice and thick and fluffy, but the pocket is small or nonexistent. I would like to use my pita for sandwiches, so the pocket part is important.

Normally when I make pita, I get a pocket forming on one side of the bread, but the other side stays flat. I end up with a lopsided pita that has a pocket too small to stuff anything into. Every once in a while, I get one with a perfect pocket that evenly puffs up the whole pita, but I don't know why it happens sometimes and not others. Could this be caused by uneven heat in my oven? Or is there something about the technique of rolling out the dough that I'm not doing consistently?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The magic word is "water" - the dough needs sufficient moisture to stay moist while it expands to one big pocket and enough to generate the steam to make that pocket.

Most people when doing doughs make them too dry because they're easier to work with. As the dough rests, it will pull together more. Ideally make your doughs for this kind of bread slightly wetter than you think and then check it after its been mixed for 30 minutes or so. Additionally, as you knead and then in the fermentation stage it will firm up some. Difference in water content of the dough causes many of the consistencies for bakers. It will also depend on how much it dries after its been rolled so thin - keep it covered.

Alternatively, if you've put your first one in and found out its too dry, then try spritzing the top with a little water and let it rest there for 5 minutes or so.

I tested batches with spritzing and without, and so long as there's enough water in your dough and the oven is hot enough to make the steam - it doesn't seem to matter. Every one came out perfect.

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More water seems to work for me! –  Laura Mar 12 '12 at 15:40

The reason behind getting some pitas puffy and others not as you said is 1) enough water and 2) heat.

You need an oven that produces higher temperature than regular ovens such as the portable ones they use in the Arab world. Or (TOG) ovens with 30 liters capacity and power not less than 1500 watts and bypass the thermostat (as I did in my house). With these you will get high enough temperature and all your pitas will come out just fantastic.

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To add one more tip to the excellent advice of both rfusca and Laura:

How you roll it out does matter. After resting the dough, you should pull off balls an roll them out smoothly, from the center, in a few quick rolls. Three issues will rolling out will prevent pitas from pocketing well:

  • If you allow the dough to fold over at all while rolling out
  • If you press several pieces of dough together or "patch"
  • If you spend too long rolling out the dough round

Any of the above will cause the dough to compress in spots, and the top of the dough will not separate from the bottom. You'll either get a malformed pocket or none at all.

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If you allow sufficient rest time with a well hydrated dough, I doubt any of that will be an issue...time to test. –  rfusca Mar 11 '12 at 20:43
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Ya, its not an issue. I cut up a pita dough into small pieces, reformed it, rest for 10 minutes, roll out aggressively, rest for 20 minutes, and then in the oven. i.stack.imgur.com/0BNno.jpg i.stack.imgur.com/LwIwe.jpg i.stack.imgur.com/KP4Ky.jpg –  rfusca Mar 11 '12 at 22:49
    
rfusca: thank you for doing this test! clearly I'm not using enough water in my pita dough. –  FuzzyChef Mar 18 '12 at 19:36

You need a temperature of at least 250°C (480°F) to get a real good steam puff inside the bread the moment it goes in oven. It is the initial rush of heat that cooks just the outside layer, and also makes steam inside which forces open the bread and makes a pocket. Once the bread is partially cooked through, you wont get a single clean pocket

Traditional middle-eastern ovens are just like fire based brick pizza ovens that are popular in backyards today

Your domestic oven may not get that hot, or be able to hold that heat when you open the door. Using large slabs of steel (up to 10Kg) or stone may help hold the heat better, and get that initial puff going

Some people use electric frying pans on maximum with the lid, to cook them one at a time

Indian naan bread has the same issue

In some areas you will find weird pans like this. They have a lid to make a single pita oven

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