The Secret To Alon Shaya's Homemade Pita Starts With Sourdough - Exclusive

No singular food is as ubiquitous to Middle Eastern cuisine as pita bread — and even with the smooth, fluffy hummus, warm kofta, and crispy falafels, your mezze just isn't quite complete without it. Served fresh, pita bread is soft, pillowy, and warm. The bread pulls apart easily and is perfectly constructed for sopping up anything you dip it into — which is everything. You simply won't be able to get enough of it. It's a problem, actually. Few restaurants serve enough pita bread, but not Alon Shaya's.

With wood fire ovens dedicated to the pita, Shaya's restaurants — Safta in Denver, Saba in New Orleans, and most recently Silan in the Bahamas — offer their patrons endless amounts. That's a good thing, because the pita he makes is really, really good. Recently, while attending the chef's master class at the Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest, Tasting Table got the inside scoop on how he makes it at home, and his secret is none other than a sourdough starter.

"[Make] or get a sourdough starter from your local bakery. And let the dough ferment for a couple of days," he says. "I make the dough one day, let it rest overnight; then I roll it into a ball, let it rest overnight; then I bake it the next day." That's not his only tip, however.

Sourdough is just the start

After the pita dough has fermented, rested, rolled, and rested again, it'll be ready to bake. But, aside from rolling the dough out thicker to achieve that nice, bready, and pillowy center that soaks up all your dips and oils, Shaya has one more tip. When it comes to making homemade pita bread, he recommends using the broiler setting on your oven. "The tip for cooking it at a high temperature at home is to use the broiler setting in your oven. [...] I have all the tricks in my cookbook," he explains, giving a nod to "Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel."

To recreate the effect of using a wood fire oven at home, Shaya shared with Food & Wine that he puts a baking stone inside the oven and leaves it there with the broiler on high for about an hour. Then, after carefully pulling out the oven rack with the stone on it, he takes a rolled-out piece of pita dough and slaps it down on the stone. With the oven door closed and the broiler on, the pita should be puffed and blistered within a couple of minutes. From there, flip the pita over so it can puff and blister the same way on the opposite side, and repeat.

There you have it — endless soft, pillowy, and warm homemade pita to pair with your creamy hummus at home. It'll be like eating at one of Shaya's restaurants every single day.