Soft & Chewy Pita Bread (Tangzhong)

Pita bread – This bread is soft, chewy and stretchy. These pocket loaves have a wonderful taste and aroma and (thanks to tangzhong) will stay soft for days. They freeze well, too. Perfect.

bowl of pita bread sq

Tangzhong in pita bread? Absolutely. It’s the secret for soft, tender loaves that won’t go stale for days.

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here.

Makes six 8 1/2-inch loaves.

INGREDIENTS:

tangzhong

  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 24 g (3 tablespoons) all-purpose flour

dough:

  • 10 g (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 10 g (2 1/4 teaspoons) sugar
  • 250 g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) water
  • 500 g (4 1/8 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 62 g (1/2 cup) powdered milk
  • 12 g (2 teaspoons) sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. MAKE THE TANGZHONG.

– In a small pan, over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and 3 tablespoons (24 g) flour for the tangzhong.
– Whisk until thick like pudding, maybe 3 minutes.
– Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate to cool while gathering the remaining ingredients.

2. ACTIVATE THE YEAST. 

– Warm the water to about 110°F (43°C). (Slightly warm to touch.)
– In a small bowl, stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water.
– Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until foamy.

3. COMBINE THE INGREDIENTS.

– In a stand mixer bowl, briefly stir together the flour, powdered milk and salt to mix and to remove any large lumps.
– Add the tangzhong and the foamy yeast mixture.
– Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is absorbed and a shaggy dough is formed.

4. KNEAD THE DOUGH UNTIL SMOOTH AND ELASTIC. (See TIPS)

– With the hook attachment, knead the dough on medium speed (setting #3) for about 10 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and gathers around the hook. The dough will be a bit sticky, but should be smooth, springy and elastic enough to stretch until almost translucent without tearing (the “windowpane” test).

  • If the dough does not pass the windowpane test, rest the dough for 20 minutes and then re-test. If the dough still does not pass, knead for 3 more minutes and then re-test. Repeat as needed. (See TIPS)

5. LET THE DOUGH RISE UNTIL DOUBLE IN VOLUME.

– Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl.
– With lightly greased fingers, gather up the dough by pulling up the sides and folding it into the center. Do this a few times to bring the dough together into a ball.
– Flip the dough, so that the top is smooth and greased.
– Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour or until double in size.

6. DIVIDE THE DOUGH AND LET REST 30 MINUTES.

– Ease the dough out of the bowl.
– Divide the dough into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. 
– Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and a tea or kitchen towel. Let rest about 30 minutes, until the dough is very relaxed. 

7. ROLL THE DOUGH INTO FLAT ROUNDS. (See TIPS)

– On a lightly-floured the countertop, with a lightly-floured rolling pin, roll a ball of dough into a flat round.

  • Roll upward and downward, then lift the round of dough and turn 90 degrees.
  • Again, roll upward and downward, then lift the round of dough and turn 90 degrees, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. (It is important the round is relaxed and not sticking to the countertop, otherwise it might shrink in the pan.)
  • Continue this way until the round is about 8-inches in diameter.

– Place the rounds single-layer on a tea towel and cover with plastic wrap and another towel.
– Let the rounds rest for about 10 minutes. (Just long enough to heat up your pan.)

8. COOK THE BREAD. (See TIPS)

– Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until thoroughly pre-heated.
– Gently place a round of dough in the center and let cook for a minute or so, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure the bread is not sticking.
– When the dough just starts to bubble and the edges look dry, flip the bread with a spatula. 
– Cook the dough for a minute or so, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure the bread is not sticking. 
– The bread should begin to puff up like a pillow. Use the weight of the spatula to direct the air in the puffed areas to the areas of the bread that are not puffing.
– Flip the bread as needed until cooked through and the bread has browned in areas.
– Place the cooked bread on a cooling rack over a towel.

To Store:

– Store at room temperature in a sealed container or bread bag for 3 to 5 days.

To Freeze:

– Stack the pita bread with sheets of parchment or wax paper in between.
– Wrap the stack in plastic wrap and then place in sturdy freezer bags. (Or wrap the loaves individually, if you wish.)
– Freeze for up to a month.

*****
fluffy pitas cooling

About this recipe

Soft, stretchy, chewy pita bread. These pocket loaves will stay soft for days. And you can freeze them for up to a month or two for fresh pita bread whenever you want.

Why use tangzhong in pita bread?

Tangzhong is a cooked roux of flour and water often used in soft Asian breads (like in Japanese Milk Bread) to make them extra fluffy and soft. Why use it in pita bread? Because tangzhong also prolongs shelf life. Tangzhong will help keep your pita bread soft, chewy and stretchy for days after you cook them.

TIPS:

Here are 4 helpful TIPS:

1) Some tips about starting your dough:

Use a scale, if you have one.

– While I sometimes find using volume measures more convenient, in baking, weight measures will give more accurate and consistent results. So if you bake regularly, you really should get a scale. (Preferably one that reads ounces and grams.)

scale
Cool the tangzhong to room temperature.

– Be sure to give to give your tangzhong time to cool. If your tangzhong is still too hot when used, it may harm the yeast.

Tangzhong - water roux
Make sure your yeast is active.

– When activating your yeast, make sure the water is just slightly warm to touch, no warmer than 110°F (49°C).

– If the yeast doesn’t become foamy within 5 to 10 minutes, throw it out and try again.

– Do not let the yeast sit too long after it has become active and foamy. If the activated yeast sits too long, it may become less effective.

Yeast activated in sugar and water after 10 minutes

2) Some tips about kneading:

Knead until smooth and stretchy.

– Kneading is key in this recipe for getting light, soft, stretchy pita bread. So knead your dough until it is nice and smooth and elastic enough to stretch thin without tearing.

  • The dough should be able to be stretched until almost translucent without breaking or tearing (the “windowpane” test).
  • This dough is soft and sticky. That’s normal. Do not add any extra flour or the bread may become dense and heavy.

If your dough didn’t pass the windowpane test:

  • If you have kneaded for the allotted time but your dough is not passing the windowpane test, don’t stress. Rest your dough for 10 to 20 minutes then test again. (Don’t forget to cover the dough with plastic wrap while resting.)
  • If the dough is still not smooth and elastic, knead for 2 or 3 minutes and then re-test.
  • Repeat (rest and knead), if needed. But if you start to feel the dough becoming firm and less stretchy, stop kneading or else you risk over-kneading your dough.

3) Be sure the dough is nice and relaxed when rolling.

Rest the dough:

– Giving the dough time to rest makes the dough easier to roll out and will prevent the dough from shrinking up in the hot pan when cooking.

resting dough

Roll the dough:

  • Roll upward and downward.
  • Turn the round of dough 90 degrees and again, roll upward and downward.
  • Continue to roll and turn the dough until it is about 8 or 9-inches wide.
  • Dust lightly with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
  • The rolled out round of dough should be relaxed, not shrinking back.

Rest after rolling:

  • Rest your rolled out pitas on a tea or kitchen towel and cover with plastic wrap and another towel while rolling out the remaining pitas.
resting after rolling

4) How to cook the pita bread:

– Make sure your pan is nice and hot before you begin cooking. Each round of dough should only take about a minute on each side to cook. Adjust the heat accordingly.

  • Carefully place a round of dough in the center of the hot pan.
  • When bubbles appear, flip the bread with a spatula.
  • The bread should slowly puff up like a pillow. If the bread seems to only be puffing in one area, gently nudge the air to other areas with a spatula. No need to press down. The weight of the spatula should be enough to push the air to the needed areas.
  • When the bread has fully puffed, gently flip the bread over again to allow the other side to brown as well.
  • Place the cooked pita bread on a cooling rack over a kitchen towel.
fluffy pitas cooling
*****
bowl of pita bread wide


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