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Pita roasted on an outdoor fire.
Pita (USA) or pitta (most of the world) also called and less commonly known as pide (Turkish), pite (Albanian), питка (Bulgarian)) is an often round, brown, wheat flatbread made with yeast.

Similar to other double-layered flat or pocket breads, pita is traditional in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. It is prevalent from North Africa through the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula, possibly coinciding with either the spread of the Hellenistic world or that of the Arab expansions under the banner of Islam.

In Greek cuisine, pita may refer to thicker breads made with yeast, for example souvlaki pita. In Cypriot cuisine, pita is made roughly from the same materials as in Greek cuisine but differs in size and shape. It may also refer to foods using many layers of dough of thickness less than 1mm, usually with many different ingredients in between, forming savoury pies such as tyropita and spanakopita or sweet pies such as baclava.

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

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. The Hebrew word for bread could not be used, as it denoted a different type, so the Aramaic word was adopted. Today, speakers of Arabic in Israel refer to the pita as "Kmaj" or "khubz", as was customary in the Arab community. Jews of Arabic descent exported the pita to Western countries, together with Falafel and other types of Arabic food since the 1950s. 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 it means pie in general. Another possible etymology is from a Romanian archaic word for bread, pită. An alternative etymology traces the word to a cognate for pine pitch, which forms flat layers that may resemble pita bread, which in turn may share an etymological origin with pizza (Italian for "pie").The word spread to Southern Italymarker as the name of a thin bread. In Northern Italian dialects pita became pizza, now known primarily as the bearer of savoury toppings but essentially still a flat bread. Indeed in some parts of southern Italy, there are pastries called Pita, which are filled with spicy fruit and nuts.

Origin

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. However, it is safe to assume that 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. However the first signs of flat breads occur in and around Amorite Damascusmarker. 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.

Eating habits

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 breads 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.

In modern history (in the 1970s) much of pita's popularity in the Western world is due to this pocket. Instead of using pita to scoop foods, the pocket is filled with various ingredients to form a sandwich. These are sometimes called "pita pockets" or "pocket pitas". Certain manufacturers have taken steps in packaging to clarify the difference between pita (which has no pocket, and historically meant "flat") and pita pockets (which have pockets).

In Turkeymarker, pita (called pide, also refers to the pizza-like food) typically has a soft, chewy texture and is pocketless. The pizza-like foods called lahmacun are made with oval-shaped pieces of pide dough that are topped with finely chopped meat and herbs before baking. Pide also refers to another pizza-like food made of pide dough which is topped with different material; there are regional variations in the shape, baking technique, and the topped materials used where it can be said that every region has its own pide style. These pides can include chicken, beef, cheese, potatoes, garlic and many other ingredients.

In Greecemarker, pita is eaten with dips such as tzatziki. Moreover it is part of the quintessential Greek fast food pita-souvlakiand pita-gyros. These types of sandwiches involve the wrapping of souvlaki or gyros with tzatziki, tomatoes,french fries, and condiments into a pita bread.

Stuffed pita

In the Balkans pita most often 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 national cuisine of Bosnia and Herzegovina but it is popular in other parts of ex-Yugoslaviamarker.

In Bulgarian cuisine, pita is served on special occasions. Its preparation and consumption have ritual meaning. For example, on the night before Christmas Eve, ( - 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, and it is believed that whoever finds it in their piece 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 when dear guests are expected. 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 flavour to every meal). This is how the hosts show that the guests are desired and that they wish to share their meal with them.

In Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, it is the custom to eat almost everything in a Pita. Falafel, lamb or chicken shwarma and Kabab, omelets such as shakshouka (eggs and tomatoes) and hummus and other salads in a pita. This pita, however, is slightly thicker and smaller than the Lebanese version, and tends to be a mixture of whole and white wheats. This is not to be mistaken for Khubiz Saj, used to make the famous Palestinian dish Musakhan (and also often used in making shwarma). A pita-based dish unique to Israel is the Sabich, which has also received warm welcome by Israeli Arabs.

Trivia

The largest pita in the world was made by Georgios Mavroleon and Nektarios Fintikakis in the island of Cretemarker on 19 May 2001. It weighed 50 kg (110.2 lb).The "pocket" in pita bread is made by steam. The steam puffs up the dough and, as the bread cools and flattens, a pocket is left in the middle. The first fully automated pita bread machine was designed and built by an Israeli named Shlomo Cohen.

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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