Living in what is essentially just west of the Middle East, pitta bread is very common. Pitta breads (pita in American English) are flat breads with pockets. They are also very tasty. Pitta bread seems to be best known in two different ways to the more Western world. It’s either cut into slices to use as scoops for dip. Or, more commonly, you wrap a pitta around kebab meat. But there’s something off about the humble pitta bread.
The Pitta is a versatile bread.
In fact, this humble bread has many forms, all over the Mediterranean and Middle East! Really, the word “pitta” is pretty ubiquitous. It can apply to all sorts of similar breads with pockets inside them. It can even apply to breads without pockets, like the Greek pitta bread. And, of course, everywhere has their own local name for it as well.
With a pitta bread, you can actually do a lot with it. Okay, sure, most of that is sandwiches. But the best kind of sandwiches. Pittas are the perfect shape for holding chunks of salad and meat.
Here in Cyprus, the main local dish is ‘souvla’ or ‘souvlakia’, grilled meat of various sorts, served with salad inside a pitta bread, with a garnish of lemon juice. It’s a glorious dish. Around Easter, after traditional fasting, you can smell nothing but grilled meat cooking across the country. Pitta breads are actually pretty strong, and will hold a lot of filling. Aside from meat and salad, popular fillings are grilled lountza and halloumi, as well as sieftalia, which are small mince sausages with lots of herbs.
Funnily enough, gyro (the thinly sliced kebab meat) is often regularly served in a pitta, but that pitta is generally the pocket-less type. I however prefer the Cyprus pitta simply because it’s huge. And fluffy, assuming the pitta bread is fresh.
“But Medic, what is the conspiracy?”
The conspiracy is just that there’s always some pitta breads I can’t cut open. Normally, there’s a pocket of air inside a pitta bread. But sometimes, no matter what way you jam the knife in, that pocket just can’t be opened. The insides are sealed shut. All that’s happened is that the bread hasn’t been cooked fast or hot enough. Normally, as the bread cooks, the water in the dough turns into steam and expands, making a pocket.
However, as an in-joke between family, sometimes we say that the ‘bad pittas’ are some kind of conspiracy. A conspiracy for what? To buy more pitta bread! Or maybe it’s a conspiracy to soil the name of the pitta bread, so that people buy more Greek-style pitta breads.
There’s no conspiracy here, just a fun joke. But considering how many pitta breads that the local tavernas, restaurants and kebab places get through? Having a bad pitta every so often must be a real pain in the ass.
Apparently pitta breads are easy to make.
I’ve made a lot of things at home, including bread. I actually make pizza dough all the time. However, I’ve never tried to make pitta bread! It’s just a standard bread. The difficulty is getting the temperature and speed right. Because, as mentioned before, you need to cook pitta bread hot and fast. But, aside from that, it should be doable. Doesn’t even need much time to rise since, well, pitta breads are flat.
I’ll have to look up a recipe and make some. I might even make a SPUFood article about it at some point. But until then, I’m just going to bathe in the fact that I wrote 500 words about bread.