Ingredient: Pita Bread

I don’t know that I have adequately stressed one critical essential to the Lebanese style of eating: whether it’s kibbeh, tabbouleh, hummus or just olives and labne on your plate, the thin, soft piece of bread in hand to scoop up your bite is just as important to making the party in your mouth as the rest of it is.

There’s Lebanese flat bread, which I grew up calling Syrian bread, and there’s pita bread (which we call kimaj, the English spelling of which has long dogged me). We’re not going to talk about the flat bread today because it’s a doctoral thesis in and of itself, and we will get to it soon enough. As for the pita bread, there are two types: the flat, thin style that is easily torn and has a chewy texture, and the thicker, spongy style used as a pocket for sandwiches. I have never gotten behind the thick, spongy pita and even have a kind of irritation about it. I don’t like it, and the thick pita is unfortunately the only pita to be found in most grocery stores, which is maddening because the thin pita is difficult to replicate at home. I got so worked up about the dearth of good pita at one point that I wrote an article about it for the Chicago Tribune. My hope was that places like Whole Foods would get with the program and start carrying better bread, but that was to no avail.

Thankfully I have moved back to Michigan, where there are so many of us that there is no question about the demand for and availability of thin-style Lebanese pita. Virtually all of it seems to come out of the Middle Eastern bakeries of greater Detroit like Beirut Bakery (whose web site announces: “Raw Kibbe Fridays!”), Al Shams Bakery, or Yasmeen.

Thin, soft all-natural pita bread is so good when it’s fresh that you’ll find yourself eating one for breakfast and needing nothing else with it. Just fold it up and get it in there as you walk out the door. As the baker at Middle East Bakery in Chicago told me in his classic Arabic accent when I interviewed him for my Trib article, “The bread is so good that I need nothing with it,” he said. “I eat the bread with the bread!”

We’re going to make a super easy, super delicious, Super Bowl-worthy appetizer with our pita this week. The recipe works great with thin or thick pita, so you can make it even if the good stuff isn’t anywhere to be found near you.

 

(Visited 14,017 times, 3 visits today)

30 Comments

  1. Anne Saker on February 1, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Cousin, my father used to make Leb bread at home, liberally dusting the entire kitchen with flour but OMG that bread hot from the oven was as close to heaven as can be reached here on earth. Hope you’re well. xoxoxo

    • Maureen Abood on February 2, 2012 at 12:14 AM

      Sounds just wonderful. What a memory.

  2. Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) on February 1, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    Oh yes, Syrian bread! I grew up in a small suburb of LA–no seasons, no snow, but plenty of cold fog rolling off the beautiful blue Pacific, inland, right into our house–so it was cold in the winter–On one Saturday of each winter month, my Dad would take us to the movies and drop us off, in our 1930s car (cars were very hard to come by after the war–so we always had an old, barely running car–a disjunctive image for LA, I know)–we would each get 50 cents, 25 for admission, a dime for popcorn, and each of us would save a nickel for the phone call home –letting it ring three times as a signal–then hanging up to retrieve the dime. The BEST part of the whole day was rounding the corner onto our humble little street, and the smell of my Mother’s bread would waft all the way up the street–we would bound out of the car and she would have timed it perfectly so that she was just taking the first loaf out of the oven as we threw open the screen door and ran into the house, and she would tear that loaf into three pieces and slather each with butter (the only time we ever had real butter) and put a piece into our outstretched, waiting hands, frozen from the cold. We would DEVOUR that bread–my Mother was the best cook of all the Syrian ladies in the LA community, her bread, her kibbeh, her tabooleh, her batlawi, all of it was to perfection! And the bread soothed our tummies and warmed our hands all at the same time, and the whole house smelled of that aromatic bread. Thank You Maureen for the memories you bring back to me of a beautiful, loving childhood in my parents’ home! As our mutual cousin Charlie Abowd says, “One of the ways our culture shows it love is through our food.” Blessings always.

    • Maureen Abood on February 2, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      It’s all about the love, Diane!!! And the bread and butter. What I’d give to walk into your mama’s kitchen…. thank you for the beautiful story!

      • Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) on February 2, 2012 at 4:20 AM

        Maureen, your writing brings those memories back into sharp relief for me, TY!!

  3. David on October 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Can you provide a recipe for this deliciously thin pita?

    • Maureen Abood on October 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      David, I am still working on that!! Seems the very thin pita is not easy to achieve at home…stay tuned…

  4. azam on November 23, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    please tell me how to make this thin style pita bread…i have search every where and tried each recipe but couldnt achieve this. all i can make is fat bita bread. please help

    • Maureen Abood on November 24, 2012 at 7:06 AM

      I share your frustration, Azam! I am still in search of a very thin pita bread method. It seems impossible to achieve it at home. I will keep searching and will let you and everyone else know if and when I find it! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Patricia Abood on March 17, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I ran across your website looking for a thin chewy pita bread recipe. I see you must be still working on it since I don’t see a recipe for it. I’m wondering if the secret to making the bread is using a pita pot. I have not found one to buy in the US. Strange looking contraption but that’s what is used to make puffy pita.

    • Maureen Abood on March 18, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      Hi Patricia, and thank you (my aunt is also Patricia Abood…)–I am not familiar with a pita pot but will investigate!

  6. Saad on August 31, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    any success in exploration of recipe. I am also searching the recipe for a long time.

    • Maureen Abood on September 2, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Still working on a very thin pita at home…I will let you know as soon as it is accomplished!

  7. SSimon on January 29, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    This is exactly the type of bread that I am searching for a recipe for — you’re right that growing up in Michigan makes us spoiled when it comes to the best of thin pita style bread. Any chance you’ve mastered a recipe yet?

    • Maureen Abood on January 29, 2014 at 5:51 PM

      Well thanks–I am making pita and including it in my book, but it just doesn’t seem possible to get the bakery pita we love to come out the same without the special machinery they use to achieve it in the bakeries!

  8. Mrs. Ghazel on May 22, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Maureen, I echo your sentiment about pocket bread! The thick, old pita bread on the standard supermarket shelf is barely palatable. I live in a remote location, and true pocket bread is far away. 🙁 I attempted making it once years ago, and it was ‘OK’. I’m sure that whatever you come up with for a recipe will be far better than what is available in the grocery stores!

  9. Jenny on September 2, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Hi!
    I live in a small town where groceries are
    Limited variety. I am Trying to find out what type of pita bread is thin, chewy when steamed and has a thin layer you can lift, stuff and roll. I am I. Hopes
    Of ordering online.

    Hopeful,
    Jenny

    • Maureen Abood on September 3, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      Jenny, I feel your pain with trying to find the bread! Try ordering from New Yasmeen bakery in Detroit, or also try Beirut Bakery in Detroit.

  10. Rod Torrez on November 24, 2015 at 6:20 PM

    I used to frequent a Syrian restaurant/market in Denver that served the thin bread. I have had difficulty finding it anywhere else that I have lived. I need to learn to make it!

  11. Donna on January 29, 2016 at 10:53 PM

    Syrian bread is the best bread in the world , I grew up on it , the middle eastern store was down the road from us. I hate that the big markets don’t sell it now that I live in Florida, but when I go home to boston I bring bags of it home and freeze it, not as great as fresh out of the oven but better than not having it., and your right pita bread is to thick and not the same taste. When the bread was fresh I couldn’t wait to open the bag and take a whole one fold it and just eat it as it came and if you weren’t carefully you could eat a whole bag before you got it home. Thanks for sharing

    • Maureen Abood on January 31, 2016 at 6:15 PM

      What a great comment! Thank you Donna!

  12. Chris Powell on November 3, 2016 at 8:47 PM

    Maureen,

    I thought that only my family (Touma’s from Michigan) grew up calling the bread “Syrian Bread.” It was great to hear that this was the case in other Lebanese families. I am not sue why, but that is how I still think of it. “Pita Bread” seems like a modern term to me. One difference: my family called all bread “Syrian Bread.”

  13. Angelina on November 28, 2016 at 6:18 PM

    Hi Maureen,

    Fascinated reading the story. Would you happen to share the Lebanese pita bread recipe please?

    • Maureen Abood on December 11, 2016 at 7:31 AM

      Thank you Angelina! My pita recipe is in my cookbook, but not on my blog (yet!).

  14. Salma dresse on March 31, 2017 at 7:35 PM

    Hi Maureen, please tell me you have a recipe for that thin pita bread for us…I thought just to ask and after all those years, you might had found away!!! Thank you for all your recipes, they all are good

    • Maureen Abood on April 1, 2017 at 3:11 PM

      Thanks so much Salma. I have a pita bread recipe in my cookbook, but it is a thicker, fluffier bread. I’m still of the mind that the perfect thin pita is made in bakeries only……!

  15. Simone on May 3, 2018 at 7:28 PM

    Hello,
    I grew up in SE Michigan and I currently live in a very remote area in Texas. I bake most of the bread that we eat and I am looking for a recipe to attempt to replicate the thin bakery pitas that are available in the Detroit area. Can you give some insight as to what equipment bakeries use to create this bread? I know this is not a new post, but I would appreciate any insight you have, as we miss and crave this type of bread! Any advice and/or recipes would be great.
    Thanks, Simone

    • Maureen Abood on May 7, 2018 at 2:36 PM

      Hi Simone–the professional bakeries run the dough through a press that gives it the perfect, balanced thinness we are used to from those Detroit bakeries. Do try my recent post for pita bread, which may not be as thin as you’d like but it is so excellent and comes out great every time! It’s right here. Love to know what you think if you do try it!

  16. Jane on October 2, 2021 at 5:47 PM

    I cannot find my syrian bread in the town where I reside, so I will try to bake it. I wanted to come to this site first, being from Detroit, you would know exactly what I would be looking for. Please keep testing! You are the queen of Lebanese cooking and I miss this very special pita bread.

    • Maureen Abood on October 5, 2021 at 3:43 PM

      Thank you Jane!! What a pity not to be able to find that perfectly thin bakery pita. Absolutely more to come on this!

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Maureen Abood in the kitchen

I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

Read More

Favorite Posts

Subscribe

Sign up for Lebanese recipes, tips, and info here
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.