PITA

Also called pitta, this might be the most ancient and the most baked bread around the world.

This bread would go back from about 15,000 years ago, alongside the first breads ever baked. It appeared with the Natufian people in actual Jordan and all around the Levant. They would mix wild grains and water together and bake it over the fire.

Natufian Era

During the Neolithic period, around 10,000 years ago the first domesticated crops seems to have appeared along the Fertile Crescent. In the meantime, the idea of crushing the grains in order to get a powder might have appeared in the same time. By 2000 BCE, pita-like bread were a big part of the Babylonian and the Mesopotamian culture and was a basic element of the diet.

Babylon

The first pita as we know it today might have been baked first by the Bedouins, a nomad community mostly present in the Levant area but also around the Mediterranean Sea. After a day walking across the desert or around the mountains, they would crush grains between 2 stones and mix this powder with water and let it ferment before baking it over an open fire. The pita was, and still is, a utensil to serve food, used like a plate or a spoon.

Bedouin baking a pita in the desert

Thanks to the Bedouins and their travel all around the Mediterranean Sea, the pita got implemented in almost every country there. But they all make it differently :

LEBANON, JORDAN, IRAQ

خبز البيتا (khabaza albayta) : the most ancient form of pita made in Arabic countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The pita there is baked either in a oven or on a stove, and has got a big pocket of air like the recipe I’m giving you below.

Lebanese pita

EGYPT

Going South-West from the Levant is Egypt, where they call it عيش بلدي (aish baladi) meaning rustic or rural bread. Aish also means life which demonstrate how bread is important in the Egyptian culture. The pita there also have a pocket of air, but seems to be less important than the Levant ones.

Aish baladi

TURKEY

Going North from the Levant is Turkey, where they called it pide. The pide can be plain or stuffed into this oval pizza-like bread. The plain pide is flat and traditionally baked in a clay oven.

CYPRUS

In the South of Turkey, crossing the sea, is the island of Cyprus, where it is actually called πίτα or pita. It is there flatter than the Levant ones but still have a pocket of air. It is used in many Cypriot dishes like souvlakia or sheftalia.

Cypriot pita

GREECE

Going West from Turkey is Greece, where it is also called πίτα or pita but this time it’s flat and baked on a stove. It is quite popular in the Greek diet.

Greek pita

EAST-EUROPE

Going North from Greece are Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Romania… where it’s called pita as well, but the word pita can also mean pastry in those countries so there’s many dishes called like that without looking alike.

Hungarian pita

This bread is mostly called pita nowadays around the world because the word entered the Oxford English Dictionary from the Greek πίτα (pita).

The word pita could originate from the Ancient greek πικτή (pikte) meaning “fermented pastry”. The word might have derived later into picta in Latin and derived again in pita. The word picta might also be the parent-word of pizza.

Here’s the recipe for a Lebanese-style pita :

Lebanese pita

This is the kind of pita that blows like a balloon in the oven (check below the timelapse) and gives you a big pocket. Eating it with hummus makes it the perfect association. This recipes uses liquid starter but you can use fresh or dried yeast instead.
TYPE: Bread
COUNTRY: Lebanon
YIELD: 6 pita
KNEADING: 10 mins
FERMENTATION: 15 hrs
BAKING: 4 mins
TOTAL TIME: 15 hrs 14 mins

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g white bread flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 180 g water at room temp. (~22°C)
  • 10 g olive oil
  • 40 g liquid starter

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix everything together for 3min in 1st speed then 6min in 2nd speed and 1min in 3rd speed. Make sure that the gluten is well-developed.
  2. Let the dough rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
  3. Put the dough on a floured workbench.
  4. Make a fold by giving the dough a rectangular shape (the picture comes from a fougasse dough so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like the same).
  5. Fold one third on top.
  6. Fold the other third on top.
  7. This will give the dough some strength before going in the fridge.
  8. Put the dough in the fridge for 12 hours.
  9. Divide the dough at 80g into 6 pieces.
  10. Roll them and let it rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
  11. 1 hour before the end of the resting period, preheat your oven at 280°C or at the maximum temperature using the bottom heat option. Put a baking tray inside and allow it to preheat as well.
  12. Put a piece of dough on a floured workbench and gently punch it to allow the gas to come out.
  13. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to a diameter of around 18cm. Put it on a piece of parchment paper.
  14. Slide the parchment paper onto the baking tray inside the oven. Let it cook for around 4 minutes. The pita should rise like a balloon.
  15. When it’s cooked, take it out and let it cool down 10 minutes on a wire-rack tray.
  16. Enjoy!
  17. Don’t forget to check out the timelapse video of the baking on my Instagram below :

Leave a Comment