Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Crusty Greek Bread

 Did you know that bakers in Byzantium were never called to public service? Their animals could not be taken into service either. Bread was, and still is, a staple food in the Greek world. Here's a recipe for a crusty country bread that would be very similar to the round loaves served during the Empire.

1 ounce of fresh yeast or 2 tablespoons of dry yeast
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
1/2 cup of corn flour (not corn meal) 

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of flour and mix until all lumps of flour have dissolved, to form a thick liquid. Allow to rise about 15-20 minutes.


8 cups of unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (1/2 c. is extra if you need it.)
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil (to coat the bowls and loaves)  

Sift the remaining flour with the salt, put in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the center. Add oil, honey, milk, yeast mixture, and 2 cups of the water in the well. Pulling in the flour slowly, mix with hands until it's a cohesive mass. (If more water is needed, add in small amounts from the remaining 1/2 cup.) Turn out onto a floured surface and continue kneading until the dough is nice and smooth and no longer sticks to the hands.

Note: You could cheat and use a stand mixer with a bread hook!

Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and roll until all sides of the dough are lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with 3 dish towels: 1st one dry, 2nd one dampened with warm water (wet towel and wring out), and the third dry. Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Punch it down and knead for 5-6 minutes on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 equal portions, and form them into round loaves. Place them several inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets or a stone and cover with 3 clean dishtowels (the middle one damp). In a warm place, allow the loaves to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

For a thicker crust, score the tops of the loaves in a cross shape. Otherwise, bake as it is on the rack just below the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes until browned. When tapped on the bottom, bread will sound hollow.

When the loaves are done, remove from oven and cool on racks.

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