A taste of home: couple from Lebanon open pita bakery on P.E.I.
'The bakery was a dream for us to accomplish'
A couple from Lebanon has opened the Island's first pita bakery: Royal Pita Bakery. They've called the Island home since 2006, but say something important was missing — authentic pita bread.
Toufic Houchane says opening this bakery has been a dream for years.
"We worked hard on it, both me and wife with the help of some other people too, until our dream came true to open the bakery," he said.
Used in every meal
Houchane says pita bread is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, and is used at every meal.
Until now, it had to be brought in from off Island, often arriving frozen. Now — thanks to an oven shipped from Lebanon and a traditional Lebanese recipe — anyone of Middle Eastern origin can have a little taste of home, baked fresh at the shop located at 159 John Yeo Drive in Charlottetown.
"Back home, in Syria and Lebanon and Jordan and everywhere in the Middle East, they have bakeries like this one," said Houchane, who says the bread is especially popular with newly arrived Syrian refugees. "Now whenever they come over here they remember, the old days like back home, and how they used to go to the bakeries and buy their bread from it."
Special oven, special process
The oven heats up to 1,400 F, which allows the bread to cook in six seconds.
Houchane says it's also a matter of controlling the temperature inside the bakery.
"The temperature can go from 35 to 40 degrees inside, it can't go below 30 degrees inside, that will impact the bread and the dough," said Houchane. "It's related to the humidity inside and the temperature outside, you've got to calculate carefully to make it a good product."
Customer base growing
Among native Islanders, the fondness for fresh pita bread is catching on. Charlie DesRoches it's a real treat to have fresh baked pita bread available on the Island.
"It's hard to find good pita bread in P.E.I., it's hard to find good pita bread in Atlantic Canada, and I tried his pita bread and it's the best I've ever tasted."
So far, Royal Pita Bakery is employing three people, one from Lebanon, a Canadian, and a Syrian refugee. Several Island businesses and grocery stores have started carrying the bread. The owners hope that demand will continue to rise.
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