Whole Wheat Pita Bread – How to Get Pockets

Country-Style Whole Wheat Pita Bread

When trying out a new recipe, do you sometimes get the feeling that it’s just not going to work? Finding out towards the end of cooking can be frustrating but luckily, the warning signs for this country-style whole wheat pita bread were obvious early in the process. While kneading by hand, the dough basically refused to come together for me.

Using the highest recommended amount of whole wheat pastry and all-purpose flour, I ended up with an excessively sticky paste that no amount of slapping and folding improved. It kept tearing and kneading wasn’t an option — it stubbornly adhered to fingertips, palms, and countertops. The whole wheat pastry flour I used must have been really low in protein and unsuitable for making bread dough (using conventional kneading methods, that is).

Bread Baking Buddies: Country-Style Whole Wheat Pita Bread
Bread Baking Buddies: Country-Style Whole Wheat Pita
hosted by llva of Lucullian Delights

Adding more flour was an option but the dough did have some structure — it just wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t continue with the recipe as instructed so I had to tweak the recipe a bit: plop the gooey mass in a bowl and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.

While in cold storage, the flour gets fully hydrated, improving its gluten-forming and steam-trapping properties without kneading.

If you ever try this recipe using the whole wheat pastry flour from Bob’s Red Mill, then consider my tweaks below if you run into the same problems. For the original country-style whole wheat pita recipe that seemed to work nicely for everyone except myself, please visit Lucullian Delights.

formula adapted from Levy Rose Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible

Country-Style Whole Wheat Pita

sixteen 6-inch round flatbreads

Final Dough Formula:

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
whole wheat pastry flour          3 cups         13.5          383
all-purpose flour             3 1/2 cups         15.75         447
water, room temperature       2 1/2 cups         20            567
instant yeast                     1 tsp
kosher salt                       1 tbsp           .375         10
olive oil                       1/4 cup           2             60

Tips on Getting the Pockets in your Pita Bread:

  • To get the pockets in your pita, let the dough form a skin to help trap steam and puff the dough into balls. After dividing, form the pieces of dough into tight balls, pinching the bottom to seal. Rest for at least 15 minutes to relax the gluten, roll into thin rounds, and let the disks rest undisturbed for another 15 minutes before baking.
  • Roll the dough thinly, at most 1/8-inch thick. Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes to relax the gluten if it keeps springing back into shape.
  • Try to get the dough as round as possible so it can puff into a ball more readily. Liberally dust the counter and rolling pin with flour to prevent sticking and help the dough spread out more evenly.

Final Dough Instructions:

Mix             Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated.
Rest            Overnight (8 to 24 hours)
Divide          16 pieces

Whole Wheat Pita Bread Divided

Preshape        tight ball

Rest            15 minutes

Shape           Use a rolling pin to flatten into 6-inch rounds

Rest            15 to 30 minutes

Preheat Oven    As high as it will go, preferably with a baking stone
                8-10 inches from the top heating element. Once preheated,
                turn on the broiler and leave the door slightly ajar to
                keep the broiler fired up.

Bake            Bake until fully puffed and the tops are speckled with
                dark brown spots. It may take anywhere from 4 to 8
                minutes.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread on a Baking Stone
The most important gadget in my kitchen: a weathered bone-white baking stone. And the oven itself. Otherwise the baking stone is nothing but an unwieldy serving tray.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread Bubbly Edges on a Baking Stone
Getting warmer.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread Puffed on a Baking Stone
Let the tops brown slightly. Watch out for steam as you take it out.

Best Served Immediately

Whole Wheat Pita Bread on a Cooling Rack
There’s really no need to cool. Just throw on a plate and serve while still puffed.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread Misshapen Loaves
2 misshapen crispy loaves and my favorite letter.

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26 Responses to “Whole Wheat Pita Bread – How to Get Pockets”

  1. Arundathi says:

    sigh – i tried 3-4 different recipes and the one that gave me the best results still only gave me a 50% puff rate! i was definitely doing something wrong. have to try again.

    last blog post: Tarte Dijonnaise

  2. Lien says:

    Nice looking Pita’s you have there! Good and puffy.

    last blog post: Eens even wat anders..

  3. Joelen says:

    Kudos to some great looking pitas… and for being brave enough to tackle yeast. I’m still trying to get over my fears and hopefully soon I’ll work with it again!

    last blog post: Tamale Time!

  4. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Hooray! You got Pita! These look really gorgeous.
    Very interesting about the flour. I used some bulk ww pastry flour I bought at Central Market. As best I can tell the Bob’s is all stone ground. Wonder if that would give it more physical sharpness that would damage gluten . . . maybe I’m really getting fanciful there.
    Regardless, I like autolyse anytime!
    Beautiful Pita!

  5. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    Well you’d certainly never know the dough gave you fits by looking at the finished product. They look so soft and delicious.

    last blog post: Earth Oven Update

  6. Dave says:

    Nice save – the pita looked like they turned out wonderfully.

    last blog post: The British One Hundred

  7. Nate says:

    Thanks for all the tips!
    Saved to delicious.

    last blog post: Mochi Ice Cream from Bubbies (Honolulu)

  8. Adam says:

    Nice looking pitas! I’ve never made them before, but yours look great all puffed up. What are you going to fill them with?

    last blog post: If Life Gives You Apples…

  9. kat says:

    Luckily you knew what to do to make them work, they look beautiful in the end.

    last blog post: Pappa al Pomodoro

  10. Pietra says:

    For some reason I’ve never had one NOT puff up! I do have GREAT luck with yeast and bread making!! Even my masa tortillas puff up and make wonderful layers.
    These look great as well.

  11. Mike says:

    I just happened to make my first batch of pita bread this weekend and am glad to see this post. Lots of good tips for something I definitely will be doing again. These look great!

    last blog post: Pan Fried Grouper with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

  12. Hannah says:

    Good to know a few tips on getting pockets to form- Last time I made pita, I only got pockets about half of the time, and I had no idea why.

  13. noobcook says:

    amazing … you should open a bakery some day :D

  14. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    Is that pita smiling at me? I think it’s smiling at me!

    last blog post: Duck Fat Potatoes

  15. grace says:

    thanks for the tips, jude–i love pita bread but it rarely puffs up correctly for me. :)

    last blog post: mammy-made dilly beans

  16. Barbara says:

    Wow – I’m impressed how puffy they are! Looks like a fun recipe!

    last blog post: Beef and Broccoli

  17. Zoë François says:

    They look excellent! I also love the letter shaped bread. My kids will love that!

  18. Natashya says:

    Your pitas are perfect. Such beautiful puffs of bread.
    Great tip about the fridge. I have been reading a bit about different methods of risings and retardings for breads lately.
    One thing that I have noticed and don’t understand in baking in general – is that some people say to rest the dough to let the gluten relax and some say to rest the dough to develop the gluten. This confuses me. Any thoughts?

    last blog post: Grown Up Mac and Cheese

  19. sweetbird says:

    Jude, will you do me a favor and post something you’ve failed horribly at? Why? Because I’m petty. And you’re awesomeness hurts my eyes. I’m going to start calling you the God of Bread. What’s that in Tagalog?

  20. Baking Soda says:

    Love your pita’s and the step by step pics (the oven!). Puff the magic dragon pita. Interesting read on the difference in flours, never fails to amaze me.

    last blog post: On their way to

  21. Arundathi – Good luck with trying out pita recipes!

    Lien – Thanks!

    Joelen – Yeast is fun — Just mix and uh, wait.

    Tanna – That’s probably it — The WW Pastry I used was stone ground and it did feel kind of rough.

    Susan – Got nervous for a bit. I hate wasting flour (I’m sure it’s the same with yo).

    Dave – Glad it work well for me.

    Nate – Hope it helps!

    Adam – Was going to do falafel but didn’t have enough oil. Made Baba Ghanoush instead.

    Kat – Was going to make a big flatbread but thought maybe it would work with a bit more time.

    Pietra – Wish I could say the same thing. Sometimes they just deflate.

    Mike – Good luck with your first try at pita!

    Hannah – Making the tight balls really make a difference I think. It’s probably the most important thing to do.

    noobcook – That would be fun — Good excuse to bake all day.

    js – I think it likes you or something.

    Grace – Hope it helps!

    Barbara – It is fun — just make sure the balls don’t get stuck to each other (see last photo)

    Zoe – Thanks. Can’t help but watch as they puff up.

    Natashya – Never thought about that… “Relaxing” is probably for unwinding gluten that’s already there. Resting/autolyse is more for letting the gluten that is NOT there to develop by itself. Resting can mean the same thing as relaxing, too though. I think I just confused myself.

    Sweetbird – It’s all photoshopped — Hari ng Tinapay? That sounds funny :)

    Baking Soda – I think I melted my camera lens… I knew it was a bad idea to take pics so close to a hot ovem.

  22. Madam Chow says:

    I have to try this – my puffing needs work! Thanks for another great, informative post.

    last blog post: Good Ol’ Retro Green Bean Casserole

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  25. d says:

    Just finally got around to making these. Loved them! Loved that they puffed up and left a great little pocket. Thank you for posting the recipe. D

  26. baobab gran canaria says:

    Digg this…

    While checking out DIGG today I found this…

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