GREEK TASTES: BREAD FROM GREECE
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. There are many options, each of them with a unique characteristic. They vary in ingredients, textures, taste and even color. They do not only go with food but, some cases, they even become an essential part of a dish, like dakos, for instance, or souvlaki, traditionally wrapped in pita bread.
But it does not end there. you can choose from the traditional Horiatiko Psomi, a classic bread from Greek villages; Daktyla, a reminder of fingers according to its shape; varieties with olives or Eliopsomo. Paximadi is my favorite Cretan condiment for any salad. More Greek names add to this list of crusty delicacies; Karydopsomo; Lagana; the well-known Pita; the Easter Tsoureki; and Stafidopsomo, baked with raisins. Any one of these are delicious and represent the spirit of the traditions this 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 even it’s quite yellow inside. Good with a topping of yogurt cheese. This everyday variety is also baked in Cyprus and Turkey.
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 a variety of flours or a combination of more than one.
Horiatiko Psomi (or Country Bread) is normally baked in rural areas, 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 (elio = 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 savoury.
Paximadia, Cretan bread
Paximadia is darker than regular bread, even very dark brown on occasions. It is prepared with whole wheat, chick pea or barley flour. Paximadia is baked overnight in ovens that have been turned off so the bread cooks from the remaining heat. This produces a dry state without creating brittleness which would make it crumbling. Sometimes it is used for certain salads, it is first broken into pieces and damped. Stored at room temperature it lasts up to eight weeks when stored in an airtight container.
In Crete, a variety of Paximadia is Kouloura, usually is ring-shaped, served with olive oil, oregano and tomato. Another variation, also Cretan, is prepared with chick peas: Eptazymo.
Another dark type of Greek bread, with a rich color and taste given by the basic ingredient it includes: walnuts!
Tasteful but a bit on the heavy side, Karydopsomo contains a large amount of nuts, as well as ingredients which are high in nutrition.
Lagana is a Greek flat bread, 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, made with wheat flour and quite ancient as well (it probably comes from the Mesopotamian civilizations.
In Greece it is mostly used to prepare souvlaki and gyros sandwiches, however, it is also perfect as a snack, better if topped with tzatziki sauce.
Stafidopsomo is a mildly sweet kind of bread, kneaded with raisins. It comes in small loaves, round or oval in shape. Once the raisins have been added to the dough, it is shaped and baked in temperatures lower than those normally used to bake bread.
This variety has its origins back in the Ottoman occupation period and some state it was in Crete where it was first made. A very popular taste, that can be baked with wheat, barley or corn and sometimes served for breakfast.
Tsoureki, Easter bread
Tsoureki or Easter bread. This is a sweet yeast bread made of eggs, milk, and butter and it 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 represent the blood of Christ.
A delicious variety that can last for several days… when it lasts!