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Pita Bread

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This article is about the flatbread. For other uses, see Pita (disambiguation). It has been suggested that Khubz be merged into this article or section. (Discuss) Pita Pita topped with cucumber, hummus, lamb and tomato Origin Region or state Middle East Dish details Main ingredient(s) Flour Pita roasted on an outdoor fire. A Pita baker in Istanbul A modern Pita bakery in Istanbul

Pita (USA) or pitta (other Anglophone countries) also called and less commonly known as somun (Bosnian), pide (Turkish), пита (Serbian), 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. 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 baclava.

The Indian flatbread roti is sometimes referred to as ``Indian pita``.

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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 they adopted the Aramaic word. Today, speakers of Arabic in Israel refer to the pita as kmaj or khubz, as was customary in the Arab community.

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. 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 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.

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.[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.

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 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``. 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).[citation needed]

In Turkey, 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 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. Moreover, it is part of the quintessential Greek fast food 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.

Stuffed pita

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.

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 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 flavor to every meal). This is how the hosts show that the guests are desired and that they wish to share their meal with them.[citation needed]

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. 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 Khubz Saj, used to make the famous Palestinian dish Musakhan (and also often used in making shawarma). A pita-based dish unique to Israel is the Sabich, which has also received warm welcome by Israeli Arabs.

In Hijazi cuisine (the western region of Saudi Arabia), pita or as it is called there (Shami bread/Arabic bread) or some times just (bread) is used as a dip or stuffing bread for almost everything: fowl, hummus, labnah, cheese,