Pita (USA) or pitta (most of the world) also called and less
commonly known as pide (Turkish), pita (Serbian), ïèòêà (Bulgarian)) is an often
round, brown, wheat flatbread made with yeast.
Left: Pita topped with cucumber, hummus, lamb
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.
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.
Left: Pita roasted on an outdoor fire.
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. The word may also refer to
foods using many layers of thin pastry 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
Pita is "bread" in Aramaic. The word
spread to Southern Italy 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 a flat bread. In some parts of southern Italy, there
are pastries called pita, which are filled with spicy fruit and nuts.
Pita is used to scoop sauces or dips such
as hummus and to wrap
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".