this way of "baking" the bread is done especially during summer months when it is way too hot to set an oven to 550 F. the resulting breads are exquisite in that they are silky soft, chewy with a spongy interior and somewhat caramel-y tasting exterior due to the way they are cooked. they keep well for a few days if wrapped properly and are excellent for filling.
note before starting that you really are best using a cast iron pan if you have one as it achieves the proper heat. an indian type "tawah" or griddle pan also gives the same results. you can make these on a griddle pan used for crepes, too. oil is NEVER used to "bake" the pita. you must use a dry pan. also, buttering or applying oil to them after is not necessary as with indian chappati as they become extremely soft on their own.
the breads will puff up on the pan, or at least should, producing steam which will cook the interior of them. they will further "cook" as they rest. key is ensuring you start with a preheated pan and that they have a golden exterior, indicating when to flip them over. if they blacken, your heat is way too high and must be turned down. blackening also makes holes in the breads and prevents them from puffing up.
don't feel badly if they don't all puff up or don't puff up completely. it takes practice and a gentle hand. repetition of making pita is the best teacher. even i, who has made these countless times, do not have 100% each time. rolling the dough properly does make a difference, however.
when cutting the dough into its 8 equal pieces, i find it best to make a sausage shape from the risen dough with very little manipulation and then cutting it into 8 equal portions. once cut, do not make them into another ball. placing them flat on their cut side makes rolling easier and reduces constriction of the gluten. if you do roll them into balls, you will have to wait a bit for the gluten to relax a bit before forming the pita. both methods are correct; i happen to think the former is easier than the latter.
as they cook, one by one, place them stacked in a large tea towel or cloth so that it absorbs the excess steam. do not put them directly in a plastic bag or they will go soggy. once they've cooled, store them in a plastic ziploc type ["cello"] bag. these are great eaten warm :)
so that's it. to make the pita, follow the recipe in pita 101 and then continue here for the pan method.
pita cooked in a griddle pan
forget heating the oven to its maximum temperature during the hot months of summer and make your own homemade fresh pita on the stove top. cooked in the matter of a few minutes in a hot griddle pan, you save both energy and extra money on your electric bill. why shvitz?
*if making for shabbat for hamotzi, omit sugar, salt and oil [sefardi way, otherwise include]; can be made friday morning and used later.
after letting the pita rounds prove for 15 minutes out of the 20 minutes, heat your pan or griddle iron over medium to medium high heat. you may need to adjust after making the first pita bread.
once hot, take your pita round and place it down on the hot pan. be gentle as any rips mean it won't rise properly.
wait until you see approximately 2 bubbles form on the surface after about two minutes or so. do not press down on them or the pita itself like you would normally do for a roti or chappati bread. this will make a hole in the bubbles and make the steam escape. it doesn't bubble up all around so only wait for 2 to 3 big ones.
after several minutes, check underneath the bread with a spatula and see if it has started to brown. if it has, flip it over.
after about a minute or two, you should see signs of the pita rising a bit. take the spatula and start to press down gently on the rising parts to try to pry the rest of the pita to open up and fill with steam. do not dishearten if it doesn't work perfectly. press gently and turn it a bit while you are doing this.
the pita should puff up at this point. if it doesn't, flip it over and try again for a few seconds. if you see steam escaping from a certain spot, cover it with the spatula to prevent it escaping and you should be able to make it puff up more.
once golden brown on each side, place them stacked and covered in a tea towel.
once all cooked, let them rest covered until cooled down. they can, of course, be eat while warm.
enjoy with a sauce like tzadziki or tehina or make a falafel sandwich. perfect for lunches, you can fill them with your favourite things.
next day tip: flatbreads, like pita, are always best the day they are made but will still be good for a day or two later. to revitalize your pita before using or eating, cover them with a dish towel or [absorbent] paper towel and heat in the microwave for 10 - 15 seconds on high, no longer (depending on your microwave). this re-steams them, making your breads soft again. they can also be reheated, wrapped in foil, in an oven; you may need to give them a shpritz of water before wrapping though.