Pita bread, spelled “pitta bread” in the UK, is a round leavened flatbread that is consumed all over the world in many different cultures. It is generally made with wheat but can also be made in multigrain and whole wheat varieties. Pita bread is consumed in Turkey, where it is called pide bread, Romania, and Greece, to name just a few places. In fact, the word pita is a Greek term, which means “flat.” However, the word also has ties to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Romanian languages. Pat is the Hebrew word for “loaf.” In ancient Aramaic texts, the word pita was used to describe bread in general. Pita also exists in ancient Romanian as a word for bread.
Although the above-mentioned countries consume pita bread as part of their traditional cuisine, it is now popular throughout the world. In addition to being flat, this bread generally has two layers which, after baking separate to form an internal pocket. This pocket occurs because of the extremely high temperatures at which the bread is baked. At these high temperatures, the dough expands very quickly, separating in the middle and creating a large bubble of air inside. When the bread has finished baking and cools, it flattens out but maintains its internal pocket. When the bread is cut in half, it yields two crescent-shaped pockets of bread. This pocket can be used to hold meats, cheeses, cooked vegetables, even salads. Traditional dishes including pita bread are souvlaki, falafel, and kebabs.
Pita bread is also commonly used for dipping, especially in olive oil or hummus. This type of bread became popular in Western cultures in the 1970s. Pita sandwiches, also called “pita pockets” or “pocket pitas” became quite popular, especially in the realm of health food. In the West, pita chips have been developed as a healthy alternative to potato chips. Pita chips are triangles of toasted pita bread. Sometimes these chips are flavored with salt and herbs. Pita bread has become so popular in fact, that some fast food chains in the West have begun to offer pita sandwiches.