Breads and pastries

Breads and pastries

By
Pam Talimanidis
Contains
12 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704869
Photographer
Mark Roper

Greek families eat bread with every meal. It has always been the cheapest way to bulk out a meal and fill an empty stomach during times of poverty, and although we now live in times of plenty, bread remains an essential part of every Greek table.

In her younger years, Yiayia would make a loaf of bread every Saturday to take to church on Sunday morning. The little round loaf would be impressed with ancient Greek holy words and symbols from her special wooden stamp. It was blessed by the priest, then cut up and given out at the end of the service as a part of the Holy Communion.

Traditionally, most households in the Greek village had an outdoor oven, similar to a wood-fired pizza oven, and bread was made for the family twice a week. The oven would be fuelled with straw and when it had all burnt and the roof of the oven was white hot, it was the correct temperature to bake the bread. As well as standard loaves, all sorts of other pitas and boureks would be made from bits of spare dough and any filling which was to hand (mainly egg and cheese), and the children would gather around waiting for these tasty bits to be shared around. These days most villages have a bakery and the art of keeping the sourdough ‘starter’ alive and making bread by hand is all but lost.

At A La Grecque we make many different types of breads and pastries. We have a large old pizza oven and the stone base is ideal for cooking piadina, pizza and grissini. I always prefer to make my own filo pastry for spanakotiropita, pastourmopita and sweets such as patzavoura and baklava, as it is far superior to the factory-made filo pastry that is commercially available. However, it is very time consuming to make, so I sometimes buy handmade emek yufka (which is similar to filo) from Greek or Turkish supermarkets as an acceptable alternative.

Working with yeast in dough is a sensual and satisfying experience. Feeling the elasticity of the dough while kneading, watching it rise, knocking it back, proving it, enjoying the aroma as it bakes, and most of all, eating warm, crusty bread or cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven with lashings of butter – these are all homely, comforting and immensely pleasurable sensations.

Turkish flat breads are simple to make for a party or a barbecue and can have many uses. They can be used to wrap up a souvlaki with some salad, they can be dipped into taramosalata, topped with kephalograviera and grilled, or just used to mop up the sauce on the plate.

Lavoche also is a versatile addition to any pantry and you can make it with whatever flavourings you want: ground black pepper, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, ras-el-hanout or coarse sea salt are all good. Serve lavoche with cheese, crumble into a fattoush salad, dip it into a bowl of hummus, or best of all, enjoy it with slices of avocado and perfectly ripe tomato.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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