Bread to go

Bake pita to take with you when touring and picnicking during Succot

Pita bread (photo credit: GUILLAUME PAUMIER/WIKIPEDIA)
Pita bread
In contrast to Rosh Hashana, Succot is a festival “on the go.” Not only do we move out of our homes into temporary dwellings, but the majority of us also hit the roads, traveling the length and breadth of the country, touring and picnicking.
As a baker, my outlook is usually framed in a bread context, so when I think Rosh Hashana, I think halla. When I think Succot however, I think pita.
Pita is the “bread to go.” Its singular, portable nature lends it to being used extra- establishment as sandwiches at school or work, as a lunch snack at falafel joints on street corners, at picnics, etc.
While pita is the ubiquitous local bread, very few home bakers manage to bake it successfully in their own kitchens. It’s strange how the simplest of breads, like pita, turn out to be the hardest to make at home. If it is such a simple bread, surely it should also be simple to make, no? The answer to that question is that it is simple – simple in its basic ingredients, but it requires a special “trick” or method for its preparation. The stumbling block for many home bakers is in thinking that pita is just like any other bread, like halla for example, prepared and baked the same way.
The trick or secret to making successful pita is not so much the dough preparation but the method of baking in the oven. Once you understand this, making pita becomes almost trivial.
To successfully bake pita, you need an extremely hot oven – so hot that it will bake the pita in a minute or two! Contrast this with baking a halla, which usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.
The optimum temperature for baking pita is 350°. While most home ovens do not have a setting that goes that high, don’t fret; there is still a way to bake pita in your home oven by using a pizza stone and the grill setting. Pizza stones may be easily purchased at any kitchenware store. They are made of the same material as brick ovens (the ideal oven for baking pita). The grill setting will closely approximate the necessary 350°. By preheating the pizza stone in the oven (on the grill setting), you obtain an even baking environment from above and below, perfect for pita baking.
Another useful apparatus for pita baking is a wide metal spatula on the end of a wooden pole, the kind you see bakers using to push bread or pizza into a brick oven. If you let your pita rise on baking paper, you may slide this spatula under the paper, lift the three or four pitot up at once, lay them directly on the pizza stone (with the paper) to bake and, when done, slide the spatula under the paper and remove the pitot from the oven to cool on a wire rack.
It is important not to overbake the pita.
Many cannot believe that one or two minutes is all it takes, and they leave the pita in the oven longer “so that it will be fully baked.” By doing so, they make the pita hard and inflexible. You need only wait for the pita to balloon up (thus creating the central “pocket”) and perhaps another 10 to 15 seconds following that to obtain the beginnings of a light brown tinge, and that’s it.
No bread is as spectacularly visual when it bakes as pita. Watching a halla rise in the oven is like watching a kettle boil, but a pita is instantaneous. It balloons up in real time and is a delight to see, for children and adults alike, a delight that never fades.
Before embarking on your Succot picnic, delight your kids and grandkids by baking your own fresh, healthy pita.
PITA Makes 12 pitot
✔ 8½ cups flour (you may substitute whole grain flour)
✔ 3¼ cups water
✔ 1 Tbsp. salt
✔ 1 Tbsp. sugar
✔ 2 tsp. instant dry powdered yeast
Mix ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rise covered for 1 hour. After 30 minutes of rising, switch oven on to the upper grill setting and place the pizza stone on the upper tray to heat up. After 1 hour of rising, punch dough down and divide into 12 balls. Cut baking paper to fit the pizza stone (30x35 cm.).
Roll out each ball of dough into a flattened 15-cm. wide disc. Flour lightly and place on baking paper to rise (four pitot per sheet).
Leave to rise for 15 minutes. Slide spatula under page, lift sheet with pita and place on baking stone. Wait for pita to balloon up (1 to 2 minutes); wait another 10 seconds and slide spatula under the sheet and remove the baked pita.
Let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
Wrap in a towel until fully cooled, then eat or bag in plastic.
(CORRECTION: In my previous article, the recipe for cinnamon raisin halla was missing the yeast: 2 tsp. instant dry pow - dered yeast).
■ Master baker Les Saidel is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (, which specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking and the inventor of Rambam Bread. He also lectures and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.