Pita bread is a unique and a popular round shaped pocket bread widely consumed in many Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. It is common from the Balkans through Greece, the Levant, Arabian Peninsula and Turkey.
The bread is exceptionally done creating a pocket in pita bread with steam which puffs up the dough when cooked. As the bread cools and flattens, a pocket is left in the middle. Pita bread is simple to prepare, yeast-leavened and baked in a very hot oven using only just four ingredients such as flour, dry yeast, salt and warm water. Its two layers are almost separated during baking.
A hollow centre forms; which can be split very easily to make a pocket. It can be opened at one end and filled for a sandwich or cut in half for two smaller sandwiches. It is said that the Pita bread originated in Egypt and the Middle East centuries ago. It was introduced to the rest of the world by immigrant communities in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Pita is now the western name for the Arabic bread namely Khubz which means ordinary bread whereas other breads of Arab or Egyptian are called as kumaj (is a Turkish loanword meaning a bread cooked in ashes), all baked over a brick oven. It is said that the first evidence of flat breads occur in and around Amorite Damascus.
Stuffing ingredients like hummus, kebabs, falafel, sauces or French fries and assorted veggies, lettuce is finely stuffed in the pocket of the pita, rolled and served as a wrap or sandwich which makes the dish appetizing, palatable and stomach filling. It can be eaten as a snack or appetizer. Most of the pitas are baked at high temperature (about 232 degree C) which causes the flattened round dough to puff up.
When removed from oven, the layers of pita remain separated inside the deflated pita that allows the bread to be opened into pockets for creating space in using various dishes for stuffing. Much of pita's popularity in the Western world since the 1970s is due to expanded use of the pocket for a type of sandwich. Instead of using pita to scoop foods, people fill the pocket with various ingredients to form a sandwich.
These are sometimes called "pita pockets" or "pocket pitas". In Greece, pita is eaten with dips, such as tzatziki, which is a major component of pita-souvlaki and pita-gyros. These types of sandwiches involve the wrapping of souvlaki or gyros with tzatziki, tomatoes, onion, French fries and condiments into pita bread. In Israeli and Palestinian cuisines it is a tradition to eat almost everything in a pita which includes the falafel, lamb or chicken shawarma, kebab, omelettes and hummus and other salads.
Pita bread is also popularly consumed in countries like Turkey, Romania and Greece. It is commonly known as pide bread in Turkey. In fact, the word pita is a Greek word which means ‘flat’ and is also said to have ties to Hebrew, Aramaic and Romanian languages where the word ‘pat’ in Hebrew means ‘loaf’. In ancient Aramaic text, the word pita had been used to describe general ‘bread’.
To prepare this simple and puffy pita bread, firstly dissolve the yeast in 1 cup warm water. Sift together the flour (you can use all-purpose flour or wheat flour or a mix) and salt and mix the yeast and water. Add this yeast mixture into the dough and knead for several minutes.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll into balls. With your hand or a rolling pin, pat and press each ball of dough into a 5 inch circle about ½ inch thick.
Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the pita breads are lightly golden brown in color. Pita bread is easy to bake at home but the mixing process does take some time. Pita bread has become so popular in fact, that some fast food chains in the West have begun to offer pita sandwiches.
Do try this recipe for a change and serve your kids and family.
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Pita bread is low-fat and low-sugar bread. Like other grain-based foods, it is very nutritious and contains protein, iron, and the three main B-vitamins (thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin). The complex carbohydrates in wheat, and therefore pita bread, are a primary source of energy.