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Pita
Pita topped with artichoke hummus and lamb.jpg
Pita topped with lamb
Origin
Region or state Middle East
Dish details
Main ingredient(s) Flour

Pita or pitta is a round pocket bread widely consumed in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. It is prevalent from North Africa through the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula. The "pocket" in pita bread is created by steam, which puffs up the dough. As the bread cools and flattens, a pocket is left in the middle.

Contents

Etymology

Pita is "bread" in Aramaic. When Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Palestine in the 19th century, they needed a different word in Hebrew for the Arabic bread, simply called "bread" (khubz) by the local Arabs. Today, speakers of Arabic in Israel refer to the pita as kmaj or khubz.

Greek, Arab and other Mediterranean immigrants to the west brought pita and its varieties with them. This coincides with the linguistic evidence: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first mention of the word in English was in 1951, with references to Balkan, Greek, and especially Arab cuisine in the next three decades. The American Heritage Dictionary traces the word's origin to modern Greek for "pie," "cake," or "bread." In Serbian, Bosnian, and in Croatian, it means pie in general.

Origin

A Pita baker in Istanbul
Pita served for breakfast with humus and felafel balls

Pita is now the western name for the Arabic bread called khubz (ordinary bread), other breads of Arab, Egyptian, or Syrian origin, or kumaj (a Turkish loanword properly meaning a bread cooked in ashes), all baked in a brick oven. It is slightly leavened wheat bread, flat, either round or oval, and variable in size. The tenth-century Arab cookery book, Kitab al-Tabikh by ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, includes six recipes for khubz, all baked in a tannur, which is like the modern tandoor oven, in its Chapter 13.[1] Historians believe its history extends far into antiquity, since flatbreads in general, whether leavened or not, are among the most ancient breads, needing no oven or even utensil for their baking. The first evidence of flat breads occur in and around Amorite Damascus.[citation needed] In the early centuries of our era, the traditional Greek word for a thin flat bread or cake, plakous, had become the name of a thicker cake.

Culinary use

Pita is used to scoop sauces or dips such as hummus and to wrap kebabs, gyros or falafel in the manner of sandwiches. Most pita are baked at high temperatures (850°F or 450°C), causing the flattened rounds of dough to puff up dramatically. When removed from the oven, the layers of baked dough remain separated inside the deflated pita, which allows the bread to be opened into pockets, creating a space for use in various dishes.

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 Turkey, pita (called pide) has a soft, chewy texture and is pocketless. The pizza-like foods called lahmacun are made with oval-shaped pieces of pide dough topped with finely chopped meat and herbs before baking. Pide also refers to another pizza-like food made of pide dough topped with different ingredients. Regional variations in the shape, baking technique, and topped materials create distinctive styles for each region. Such pides can include chicken, beef, cheese, potatoes, garlic and many other ingredients.

In Greece, pita is eaten with dips, such as tzatziki, and is a major component of pita-souvlaki and pita-gyros. These types of sandwiches involve the wrapping of souvlaki or gyros with tzatziki, tomatoes, french fries, and condiments into a pita bread.

In the Balkans, pita refers to a thin filo-layered dish, often containing cottage cheese, meat, spinach, leek or mushrooms. It may also be a sweet pie, filled with a cream cheese, grated apples, grated pumpkins (bundevara) or sour cherries. Throughout much of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, and Croatia, a kind of pita referred to as burek is also a street food. Stuffed pita is part of the national cuisine of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it is popular in other parts of ex-Yugoslavia.

Customs

Pita stuffed with falafel and salad

In Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, it is the custom to eat almost everything in a pita. falafel, lamb or chicken shawarma and kebab, omelets such as shakshouka (eggs and tomatoes) and hummus and other salads in a pita. A pita-based dish unique to Israel is Sabich.

In Bulgarian cuisine, pita is served on special occasions. Its preparation and consumption have ritual meaning. For example, on the night before Christmas Eve, (Bulgarian: Бъдни вечер - badni vecher) each housewife prepares a pita and decorates it with symbols to bring fertility to the cattle and a rich harvest from the fields, as well as prosperity to each member of the household. She hides a nickel in it. Whoever finds the coin will be the healthiest and the wealthiest of the family. Prior to marriage, a bride's future mother-in-law prepares a pita for the newlyweds and sifts the flour seven times, so that the pita will be soft as their future life together. Pita is also prepared for guests. A traditional welcome in Bulgaria includes pita and salt or honey. The meaning of this ritual can be found in the expression "to welcome someone with bread and salt" (since bread is an important part of Bulgarian cuisine - and as a Bulgarian proverb says, "no one is bigger than bread", and the salt is the basic ingredient that gives flavor to every meal).[citation needed]

World records

  • The largest pita in the world was made by Georgios Mavroleon and Nektarios Fintikakis in the island of Crete on 19 May 2001. It weighed 50 kg (110.2 lb).[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Nawal Nasrallah, Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens: Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's Tenth Century Baghdadi Cookbook, Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 2007. pp. 118-126.
  2. ^ http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/ Guinness World Records
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Simple English

, hummus, and lamb.]]

Pita is a kind of flat bread. Sometimes it is called pitta or pide (Turkish), pitka (Bulgarian) and pronounced "pitta" in Greek[1]). Pita is an often round, brown, wheat flatbread made with yeast.

Pita is traditionally made in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. It is also used in the cuisines of these countries. It can also be found in North Africa and the Levant.

Possibly it was spread by the Ancient Greek city states colonies, or by the spread of the Islam through the region.

In Greek cuisine, pita may refer to thicker breads made with yeast, for example souvlaki pita. It may also refer to foods using many thin layers of dough, usually with many different ingredients in between. That way, pies such as tyropita and spanakopita or sweet pies such as baclava are made.

The Indian flatbread form of roti is sometimes referred to as "Indian pita".

References


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