WORLD TASTES: GREEK BREAD
A HOME-MADE TREAT
Today we make a trip to the traditions of home-made bread. If there is one staple in Greek cuisine, that must be the bread. Greek bread comes in many options, each of them with a unique characteristic. They vary in ingredients, textures, taste and even color.
Greek bread doesn’t only go with food but, on occasions, they are even the most essential ingredient in a dish, like dakos, for instance, or gyros, traditionally wrapped in pita bread.
That’s not all: in a Greek fourno (bakery), choices range from the traditional Horiatiko Psomi, a classic from Greek villages to Daktyla, a reminder of fingers according to its shape. Some types of bread can have olives or nuts. Paximad, from Crete is one of my favorite. More Greek bread adds to the list; such as the well-known Pita or the Easter Tsoureki. They all represent a tradition the country knows how to preserve.
A sesame-coated bread, traditionally made with yellow (or also country) flour that blends AP flour, whole wheat, and cornmeal. That last ingredient gives a characteristic texture to the loaf.
Daktyla, or finger bread, can be torn apart to separate into smaller portions from a big, oval piece.
Tasty but simple. It has a moderate crumb and tastes like white bread even it’s quite yellow inside. Good with a topping of cream cheese. Cyprus and Turkey also bake this variety.
Another one that comes from Greek villages, where it is still baked in outdoor ovens. This bread is dense and it is also available in different flours or a combination of more than one.
Horiatiko Psomi (or Country Bread) is bread normally coming from rural areas, where locals bake it using open stone ovens. Its density makes it a perfect companion for sauces and olive oil dressings etc.
Eliopsomo. This is a classic variety, its name means olive bread (elia = olive, psomo = bread) and it has a characteristic Mediterranean taste. It comes full of big chunks of olives, rich olive oil, fresh herbs, and onions. Some also say that its secret ingredient is orange juice. In any case, olives and herbs combine with the texture of olive oil to offer a distinctive and fragrant taste. Rich and savory.
Paximadia, Cretan bread
Paximadia is darker than regular bread, even very dark brown on occasions. It is prepared with whole wheat, chickpea or barley flour. Cretans bake Paximadia overnight in ovens already hot but turned off. In this way, the bread cooks from the remaining heat. This produces a dry state without creating brittleness which would make it crumble.
Sometimes locals use it for certain salads, first breaking it into pieces and then moistening it with water or olive oil. Stored at room temperature it lasts up to eight weeks when using an airtight container.
In Crete, a variety of Paximadia is Kouloura, usually with the shape of a ring. It’s served with olive oil, oregano, and tomato. Another variation Eptazymo, also Cretan, includes chickpeas.
Another dark type of Greek bread, with a rich color and taste thanks to the basic ingredient it includes: walnuts!
Tasteful but a bit on the heavy side, Karydopsomo contains plenty of nuts, as well as other ingredients high in nutrition.
Lagana is a Greek flatbread, similar to the Italian foccaccia, cooked for Clean Monday or Ash Monday, the first day of the Great Lent. Baked without yeast in the past, it is now more common to find leavened Lagana. Its shape is flat and it is usually decorated by impressing fingertips and topping it with sesame seeds or other and then it’s seasoned with olive oil.
Mostly known as Arabian, Pita is well famous the Mediterranean area, arriving to the Balkans and Middle Eastern ovens.
Pita is a soft delicacy, slightly leavened, which basic ingredient is wheat flour. Pita is quite ancient as well, in fact, it probably comes from the Mesopotamian civilizations.
In Greece, it is mostly the key ingredient to wrap meat, resulting in delicious souvlaki and gyros sandwiches or wraps, however, it is also perfect as a snack, better if topped with tzatziki sauce or greek fava.
Stafidopsomo is a mildly sweet kind of bread with raisins. It comes in small loaves, round or oval in shape. Once they add the raisins to the dough, they give shape to the loaves and then bake them with lower temperatures.
This variety has its origins back in the Ottoman occupation period and some state it was in Crete where this variety was cooked first.
A very popular taste, that can be baked with wheat, barley or corn. Greeks often serve it for breakfast.
Tsoureki, Easter bread
Tsoureki or Easter bread. This is a sweet yeast bread with ingredients such as eggs, milk, and butter. Tsoureki is a must during Greek Easter the most important religious observance of the Greek Orthodox faith.
The three-strand braid is a symbol for the Holy Trinity and the red-dyed egg braided into the dough represents the blood of Christ.
A delicious variety that can last for several days… when it lasts!