Pita bread is a slightly chewy, soft, and versatile flatbread. It is traditionally consumed in the eastern Mediterranean region, Greece, and the Middle East. Owing to the widely famous gyros, the use of pita bread has spread all over the world. There are many versions of pita bread; for example, some pita bread has a pocket, which can be stuffed with various ingredients. Pita bread can also be made into thin triangular crackers that can be dipped into hummus. Pita bread is made from water, yeast, and flour, and some recipes for pita bread also contain a little salt and sugar. It is traditionally baked in a stone oven, and spices and herbs can be combined with the dough to give extra flavor.
History around Pita Bread
The word pita or pitta is derived from the Greek language. Pita bread has been made since ancient times all over the Middle East. It is a staple food in Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine, with its use recorded as dating back 4,000 years. Archeological historians say that the pita bread mostly originated among communities west of the Mediterranean Sea. Farmers and desert people have enjoyed pita bread. It is said that traders who traveled across the Sahara and Arabian desert had carried some form of pita bread with them. The first kind of pita was a dough made by combining water and flour, which was left to be fermented by the natural yeasts absorbed from the surrounding environment. The bread rose in size due to the yeast spores. Sometime later, it is said that the dough was added with brewer’s yeast so that the bread rose quickly. The round loaves were cooked in an outdoor oven over a fire.
Pita bread versus Naan
- Naan is often oval-shaped, bubbly, and fluffy, whereas pita bread is circular and has pockets suitable for sandwiches. The similarity is that both types of bread can be brushed with oil or butter and sprinkled with herbs and spices, as desired. They both are easy substitutes for pizza crust also.
- Naan is a softer Indian bread, larger in size, with a light texture, whereas pita bread is a thinner and drier Middle Eastern bread containing a large inner pocket that can be filled with ingredients of our choice.
- Generally, naan is cooked in a tandoor, an Indian clay oven with an open top through which the naan dough can be stuck to the oven walls. Pita bread is cooked in a generic hot oven rather than in any specialized one such as a tandoor. However, both of these breads can be cooked on a Tawa pan or hot cast-iron skillet to give great results.
- Pita bread should be filled with gas as it cooks, which makes its center puff into an air pocket that can be filled, whereas naan doesn’t puff up and has smaller air pockets all over.
Uses of pita bread
- Pita is a versatile and nice light bread that can be served with any meal. The pocketless pita bread is most popular in gyro sandwiches and souvlaki in Greek cuisine. The one with thinner pockets is used with hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, and other Middle Eastern dishes.
- Pita is a great combination with a salad bowl and can be used as a base for making pizza or grilled sandwiches. The pita can be cut into triangles and toasted to form crispy chips that can be dipped into hummus.
- In Turkey, the word pide refers to different kinds of bread. The first kind is used to wrap many varieties of kebab; the second kind is topped with ground meat, cheese, and/or vegetables.
- In Israel, the most popular pita is Druze pita. This type of pita is filled with thick yogurt and topped with za’atar and olive oil.
Pita bread recipe
Making pita dough
- First, one teaspoon of instant yeast and one pinch of sugar is added to the stand mixer bowl.
- About 1–1.25 cups of water (depending on the coarseness of the flour) is poured into the bowl and mixed well with a spoon.
- Three cups of whole wheat flour, one teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil are added. Everything is mixed with a wooden spoon.
- Then, with a hook attachment, the flour is kneaded.
- A fine dough can be made by continuously adding a little amount of water. If the dough is sticky, then 3–4 tablespoons of wheat flour can be added, and the dough is kneaded until it is smooth and soft.
- Some olive oil is brushed on the dough.
- The bowl containing the dough is covered loosely with a soft towel for 45 minutes to 1 hour so that the dough doubles in size and volume.
- The dough is deflated and kneaded gently.
Shaping the dough
- The dough is made into a log shape, and equal portions are cut from the dough. These are kept covered for 10 minutes, so they don’t become dry.
- Meanwhile, a baking tray is placed in the oven. Then, the oven is preheated at 446 degrees F or 230 degrees C for 20 minutes.
- Each dough portion is shaped into a ball.
- Each dough ball is rolled evenly with a rolling pin into a round, 5–6 inch shape. You can also make them oval-shaped if you want. The bread should be a little thick upon rolling.
- These rolled discs are covered again for 10 minutes.
Baking the pita bread
- The baking tray is carefully removed from the oven by wearing oven mitts. Some flour is sprinkled over the rolled discs, then placed in the tray.
- The tray is placed in the oven again. The dish is baked at 230 degrees C for 7–10 minutes until it turns golden brown. If a convection oven is used instead, then the baking tray is preheated and baked at 392 degrees F or 200 degrees C. The baking time may vary from one oven to another.
- Once the pita bread is nicely puffed up and has a golden color, the tray is removed. Nice, soft, and fluffy pita bread is ready to serve with some condiments such as hummus.