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The Promise of Pita

The Promise of Pita


Before we get to all the excitation of this wildly successful GF pita recipe, I’d like to start today’s chat with a few words of hard-earned wisdom:

If (theoretically) some of your pitas don’t come out of the oven fully pocketed, and you have to coax them open with a knife, do yourself a favor & learn from my mistakes:

(1) don’t use a knife that’s sharper than necessary;
(2) don’t do the delicate pita surgery in a hurry; what’s the rush? &
(3) don’t point the tip of the knife toward your hand; instead, hold the pita such that the sharp edge of the knife is parallel to your hand.

Just take my word for it.

Otherwise, you might end up bleeding on the pita. And nobody likes that.

So you’ll forgive me if my {hand}writing is a little sloppy?

My left hand hurts. On account of the stab wound in the center of my left palm.

Now that’s out of the way, & we can get back to all of the hullabaloo:

Have you ever had a gluten-free pita? Did you think it possible, or did you never dare hope? Tell us all of your pita-laced dreams. C’mon. We won’t laugh. We all live in glass houses, here.

I’ll go first, to break the seal: I have had dreams of beautiful, puffy, pocket-y, gluten-free pita dancing in my head for a long while now. Before this most recent go-round, I had only spotty success. And spotty success is just not the sort of thing you want to share with others.

This time, it’s personal.

Gluten-free Pita
MAKES 8 TO 10 PITAS, depending upon size
3 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour, divided
2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if using Better Batter all-purpose gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons canola (or vegetable) oil, plus more
2 1/2 cups warm milk, about 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (low-fat is fine, non-fat is not)(nondairy is fine provided it has some fat)

Baking & Preparation Notes:

*Please pretty please read through the whole recipe before you begin. We’re all very excited, but we.must.remain.calm. Deep breath. Read on.
*These directions assume a stand mixer. If you do not have one do not despair. Use a large bowl and a spoon, and just do your best stand mixer impression. You can also use a food processor.
*You will need some sort of hole-y (not necessarily holy (but who am I to judge?), just with lots of holes) surface upon which to bake the pitas. You need lots of air circulating around them to get them to fill with steam. I use a pizza crisper. For pizza, I use a pizza stone, but it doesn’t work for pitas. It looks like this. Anything oven-safe up to about 500 degrees F that has lots of holes in it will do, though.
*You need a screaming hot oven. And NO PEEKING. It’s kinda like a souffle. It’s modest. No peekaboo. You’ll ruin everything.
*Here’s the biggest secret of all: You don’t need every single pita to puff all the way through. The essential feature is that the pita be cooked until a tiny bit crusty on the outside, and kinda fluffy on the inside. If you get that far, and it puffs on at least part, you can let the pita cool a bit, slice it in half through the center, and slide a knife (horizontally and with care) through the center to free the pocket. Free the pockets! Free all the pockets!
*Ideally, when shaping the dough, you’re going for a seamless, airless form. You have to squeeze out all the air pockets that were created by the yeast. It seems like madness, since you just let the dough rise. Seriously? Humor me on this. ;)
*No rolling pins allowed. Just alternating flour and oil, finger tips, and turn turn turn to every season turn turn turn. You’ll see.

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place 3 cups of flour and the xanthan gum, along with the salt, and mix to combine well. Add the yeast and sugar, then the oil, mixing well to combine after each addition.

2. With the mixer on low speed, add the milk in a slow pour. The dough should begin to come together. Continue adding the milk until it’s all in there, baby.

3. Now comes the part where it would be super-helpful if I had a picture for you of the dough as it begins to take shape. But I don’t. And I feel real bad about that. So I’ll paint you a picture: Add enough additional flour so that the dough is thick and kinda creamy looking – not dry, and not really sticky, but tacky (not like it’s poorly dressed, but like if you touch it some of it sticks to your finger).

4. Dump the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn it over a few times to coat with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm, humid place for about an hour, or until nearly doubled in size.

5. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface (if you have a silicone mat, this would be a great time to break it out). Divide the dough into 8 to 10 pieces, roll each in the flour on the mat, pick one to work with first, & let’s get the initiation over with, shall we?

6. For each ball of dough, begin to flatten it (& squeeze out the air) with the heel of your hand, staying away from the edges, taking care not to make it too thin and sprinkling flour on sticky spots. Using floured fingertips, press the dough toward the edges (without pressing down the edges). Keep the form relatively small, no more than about 6 inches. Rotate the round of dough on the floured surface, and flip it frequently. As the dough begins to resemble a round, continue pressing toward the edges with your fingertips, and press back toward the center of the round with the side of your other hand, rotating and flipping the dough as you go. If this sounds confusing, go back and read this paragraph again, keeping in mind that we’re trying to create a seamless piece of dough with integrated sides. If you have added too much flour at any point, drizzle in some canola (or vegetable) oil. And don’t be afraid to oil up a piece of dough and start again. It’s more forgiving than you think. If you see any concerning spots, try to seal them up with either flour or oil, depending upon what the issues seems to be.

7. Place only as many pita-to-be rounds on your pizza crisper as can fit without touching. Stepping lively, place the crisper in the preheated oven and shut the door right quick. Bake for between 5 and 8 minutes, taking care not to allow the pita to burn (it will be crunchy and very hard to work with). Watch in amazement.

Remember – if not every pita pops, don’t.worry.about.a.thing. Don’t get discouraged. If one pita doesn’t work, pull it out before it burns, call it Naan, and keep on keepin’ on.

Cut pitas in half, gently slice open the more reluctant ones, and sing the Bibbibabka ditty.

Now click on that ridiculous blue bubble {fabulous comment mechanism as part of redesigned blog coming super soon} and tell us how excited you are to make gluten-free pitas!

Warm pitas,

Like this recipe?

Comments are closed.

  • Danika
    September 13, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    This recipe was posted on my birthday and I’ve been craving pitas for a while now, so I figured it was a sign. Now if only I could get over my fear of yeast. For some reason I can’t bring myself to make anything that contains yeast. Maybe this will help me conquer my fear.
    I also love your cookbook. As a student, my food budget is about $15/week. I’m quite glad I haven’t starved.

  • August 15, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    […] I so want you to be able to make fabulous pita any darn night of the week. There’s already this post on this here blog. It has a recipe for pita bread. But it predates printable recipes on this site […]

  • Darlene
    August 7, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    “Anonymity on the Internet rarely leads to good things”, sadly, that is so true. I may use that quote.

    • Nicole
      August 7, 2011 at 8:19 PM

      Be my guest. With or without attribution. :)
      xoxo Nicole

    • Anonymous
      August 8, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      WITH, of course!

  • Darlene
    August 7, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    Where are the stars so I can rate this recipe? My son now has this recipe DOWN! All of his puff up. He said, “Mommy, let me show you how to do it” and then approached it like a lazy teenager that didn’t care how it turned out. He plopped it down and didn’t mush it down too much and threw it on the pizza thingie. I tried that and mine puffed up! Like you said, they need to be kind of thick. I made 9 and I have 1 left. We all had one with dinner and then my son and husband had the rest with butter or the dipping sauce I made. My son said we don’t even need the falafel, they taste good with just the veggies and the sauce I made. (have I mentioned I love that boy?)

    • Nicole
      August 7, 2011 at 3:52 PM

      Hi, Darlene,
      I posted this recipe right before I started using the Easy Recipe function (which, not for nothing, is anything but ‘easy’; it should be called “Buggy Recipe” function). So no ratings. The ratings kinda freak me out, though, since they’re left anonymously and without comment. Anonymity on the Internet rarely leads to good things, in my experience.
      Lazy Teenager Pitas rock! I love so many things about that. (1) He was willing to do it with you. (2) You were willing to learn from him. (3) You were willing to keep trying it, and never threw in the gluten-free towel. I see a bright future ahead – for the both of you. :)
      Thank you so much for the update on your pita experience!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Carolyn
    August 4, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I know I know about the flour, I just had several I’m trying to use up. I may stick with the things I know I can do successfully until it is used up. They certainly taste fine, just missed by a little bit. Everything I’ve made just misses by a little bit, but I’m getting there. I will definitely make thicker. Happy to help Darlene. Maybe we should leave the baking to the kids. My pitas may not have turned out quite right but they still made a good b’fast pita. And for that I’m thrilled. Thanks Nicole.

    • Nicole
      August 4, 2011 at 6:03 PM

      Hi, Carolyn,
      I’m like a Better Batter school marm. “I know I know, Nicole. Use Better Batter.” ;)
      I’m thrilled to see that, although you may be a bit down, you’re not out. You’re keeping on keepin’ on. That’s seriously the most important part – not to get too discouraged. And you sound like you’ve got that part down.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Carolyn
    August 4, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Ok, another almost fail! I made the pita last nite late because it was so hot. Read and reread and again the recipe. Everything was fine until after the rise and then something happened and it went downhill. Oven temp is fine, off by a couple of degrees, used the holey pizza pan. They didn’t puff and were a bit on the packy side and I had to fight to open one. Someone mentioned in the comments about overworking the dough, can you do this with GF flour? For the first few I had to redo several times because I kept poking holes in them. How many times did you make before you got them to look the way you did? Just curious. I did manage to get one split enough that I had it for breakfast. Not bad. I haven’t gotten around to trying Better Batter, using up what I had of King Arthur. I know I need lots of practice, it’s hard to though when you use a small pkg of flour for each recipe. If you think of anything that I could have done differently, please let me know. Oh one more question – how thick are you supposed to be patting these out to – the thickness of a pancake, thinner or what? Thanks.

    • Nicole
      August 4, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Hi, Carolyn,
      Don’t be discouraged. I know it can be very upsetting when you have high hopes, and then it doesn’t turn out like you wanted it to. I have to be honest — I think your flour is the problem. I hate to say it, but I do. I wanted to make sure I got back to you, but I have to go run & pick up my kids. Here are answers to your questions: (1) GF flour doesn’t get overworked in the same way that gluten-containing flour can. In gluten-containing flour, the gluten can get overworked and too chewy. In GF flour, it does tend to do better (sometimes) if you let it rest. To be honest, I don’t know why. It just does. If you ask Naomi Poe of Better Batter, she’s the food scientist. She’d know. (2) They should be thicker than a pancake – unless it’s a fluffy pancake. About 1 1/2 times the thickness of a pancake. (3) King Arthur multi purpose flour doesn’t work for everything. I have heard tales of people calling them to describe a failed GF recipe, and them explaining that it works for “most” things cup-for-cup. Better Batter is just a better formula. I don’t know why.
      I’ve gotta run. Hang in there!
      xoxo Nicole

    • Darlene
      August 4, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      Oh!! I made mine too thin (overworking them in that sense) thinking they’d puff up to the right size. My son made his much thicker (less work) and they came out the best. I’ll make them thicker next time. Thank you Carolyn for bringing that up and Nicole for answering.

    • Nicole
      August 4, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      Hi, Darlene,
      Sounds like you’ve got a plan for next time. I love it when I can learn from my kid. Even if it’s by accident. :)
      If they’re too thin, there’s no “middle” to speak of. You know?
      xoxo Nicole

  • Darlene
    August 3, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    Thanks for the hug, Nicole, and the recipe. My son’s were the only ones that puffed up. I think it’s because he didn’t overwork them in his effort to strive for perfection. I was able to easily split mine, however, and they were so yummy. We ate them warm from the oven with butter and then had them for dinner with falafel. Oh man. Now that I’m feeling better I have to start working off all this food I’m enjoying.
    ..Must remember.. gluten free does NOT equal calorie free.. must remember this.
    Thank you, Nicole. Big hugs!

    • Nicole
      August 3, 2011 at 7:25 AM

      Hi, Darlene,
      I call that SUCCESS!
      I love falafel. I love pita bread.
      Gluten-free doesn’t mean taste-free, but indeed neither does it mean calorie free. It’s hard to keep it all straight. At least for me it is. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Darlene
    August 2, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    I’m making this now and I’m very very scared. It’s outside rising where we’re having a warm and very rare humid day. I hope it’s the right consistency and that the milk is warm enough to activate the yeast. For some reason I missed the 100-110 degree instruction. It was warm, just not sure if it was that warm. I’m scared. Someone hold me. Mommy!

    • Nicole
      August 2, 2011 at 7:01 PM

      Darlene, I know that feeling SO well.
      I know you had been working up to this for a long time. Don’t worry. Remember that, even if they don’t all puff, as long as you have them on a surface that allow air to get to them from both sides, they will form a light crust on both sides and can be split gently with a knife.
      Now come here and give me a hug. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Elissa
    July 27, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    looking forward to trying it tomorrow!!

  • […] Master gluten-free pita bread. I’m starting with this recipe from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring and going from there. I might make my own changes; I might keep it exactly the way it already […]

  • Angie
    June 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Do you have to warm up the milk before pouring it in? How do you activate the yeast otherwise? I would think cold milk would not allow the yeast to activate enough. Please let me know. I want to try this recipe soon.

    • Nicole
      June 4, 2011 at 6:10 PM

      Hi, Angie,
      Good point! I am going to go back and revise the recipe to reflect that. Yes, the milk should be about 100 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • […] when xanthan gum is part of the mix. With Nicole’s blog, we get both. Her posts like “The Promise of Pita” are as entertaining as they are delicious, and the special page marked “Shoestring […]

  • Amanda
    May 9, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    Hi Nicole,

    I made this recipe last night and was delighted how soft and uncrumbly they are (compared to store bought versions). I have to admit, none of my pitas popped, but they were just as delish when cut open with a butter knife-thanks for the warning ;)
    Your awesome for sharing these recipes for us. Thank you from the bottom of my belly.


    • Nicole
      May 10, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      Hi, Amanda,
      I’m so glad that you enjoyed the recipe. And that you used a butterknife — without injuring yourself! You’re welcome from the bottom of my belly (I love that, by the way – the bottom of your belly!)!

  • April 14, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    I am SO happy to find this blog you have no idea I am literally crying. I recently learned I have a gluten intolerance and I was looking at the gluten free food options and my little grocery budget started reminding me that paying THAT much was just not really possible… Thank you.

    • Nicole
      April 14, 2011 at 1:41 AM

      Hi, Strawberries,
      I’m so sorry that you were feeling so sad, but I’m so happy that you see that gluten-free food can and should be affordable and accessible.
      Feel your way around the blog, check things out, and if you’re interested, I have a cookbook that came out recently of the same name as the blog. The book has recipes and lots of tips for saving money.
      Stick around!
      Warm regards,

  • Tess
    April 11, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Thanks Nicole!

    • Nicole
      April 11, 2011 at 1:24 AM

      Hi, Tess,
      You’re welcome!

  • April 11, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    I just bought your cook book. I’m really excited to try out your recipes! Thanks for your experimentation in the kitchen and making it easy for us non-cook types. :)


    • Nicole
      April 11, 2011 at 1:26 AM

      Hi, Jessica,
      You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. And thank you again for the kind remark on your facebook page. You made my day!
      Warm pitas,

  • Cindy
    April 10, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Thanks for this recipe, I can’t wait to try it. I have been purchasing GF pitas on line from a bakery in NJ and they get a little pricey but they are good and freeze well. Can’t wait to make my own, and toast them into pita chips. BTW I just purchase your cookbook this weekend and baked the Chocolate B-Day cake with the Choc Ganache, looks picture perfect, can’t wait to have some for desert tonight! Its my hubby’s b-day today.

    • Nicole
      April 11, 2011 at 1:29 AM

      Hi, Cindy,
      If you want to toast your pitas into chips, then maybe try rolling the dough thinner and baking them at a lower temp (say, 400 degrees) for a longer period of time (say, 12 to 14 minutes). Skip the puffing step entirely! Just a thought.
      I’m so glad you were able to use the chocolate birthday cake recipe with chocolate ganache for your husband’s birthday. Happy birthday to him!
      Thank you so much for commenting!
      Warm chocolate cake,

  • April 10, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    […] Gluten-Free Pita Bread by Nicole on Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. […]

  • Penny
    April 10, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Yeah! Thank you so very much!!! Hoping to be able to make these very soon!

    • Nicole
      April 10, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      Hi, Penny,
      It’s nice to see you here. We talk all the time on facebook. ;)
      You are so very welcome. Who else but all of you can possibility understand the joy of the Promise of Pita.
      Thank you for commenting. Makes me happy.
      Warm everything,

  • Susan
    April 10, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Do you think a cooling rack would work for a “pizza crisper”? I have a nice large one, black. My first concern would be the 500 degree heat might warp it.
    Thanks for no eggs or dairy. I am still trying to steer clear of Xanthan Gum. I am thinking of experimenting with the usual suspects to find an alternative.

    • Nicole
      April 10, 2011 at 5:30 PM

      Hi, Susan,
      I’m not feeling great about the cooling rack — because of the lack of crisscrossing, and because of the issue with the heat. It’s amazing to me that they don’t sell a pita-making pan. Amazing. Note to self: invent a pita-making pan.
      I have to confess, I don’t really understand how you can avoid both xanthan gum and guar gum. I go straight to the simplicity of Better Batter all-purpose GF flour, and it has xanthan gum already in there. If you figure out a good work-around, I’d love to hear about it!
      Thank you for commenting. I get far too much enjoyment from comments.
      Warm pitas,

  • Tess
    April 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Hi Nicole,

    I was very excited to see this pita recipe! Ironically, what goes great with pita is Hummus and I actually got on here to write to you about your black bean hummus recipe in your cookbook on page 63. When it comes to the tahini, it doesn’t have a measurement. It says ___ cup tahini. Can you fill in this blank for me?

    • Nicole
      April 10, 2011 at 3:32 PM

      Hi, Tess,
      I am so sorry! It’s 1/3 cup tahini! I will email my editor right now. Please accept my apology!
      Apologies & pitas,

  • Sharlot
    April 10, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s very hard to find gluten free pitas to purchase and they are very expensive. I have saved this to my desktop…never want to misplace this one. Again thank you!!! Sharlot

    • Nicole
      April 10, 2011 at 3:33 PM

      Hi, Sharlot,
      You are so very welcome! I agree – I have had some good prepared GF pitas, but not in a long time and only when I sampled them! I was too cheap to shell out the cash to buy them! I promise I won’t delete the recipe from the site, but if I do by accident, I’ll come ask you for it!
      Warm pitas,

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