Saturday, October 26, 2013

Greek barley bread

I have yet to find a favorite bakery in The Hague. I was tricked into believing I had found it but no, I’m a tough customer. The quality of the bread went from good to bad to worse and I couldn’t have that.






There is one excellent French bakery in the city center that makes amazing baguettes that could rival those in Paris. There’s another one in my neighborhood that makes passable sourdough bread, and a couple others that promise a good multigrain but they miss the mark most of the times.






So now I’m back to scratch, seeking the bakery that does offer good bread. That’s all I want, good bread. A loaf that’s full of flavor, full of substance. A loaf that’s not too fancy, one that will make me go back to it again and again, planning my meals around it; soups, stews, runny eggs.






The thing is, I love bread. I simply can’t have a meal without it and as a person who eats a lot of bread, I realize that it needs to be at the very least of good quality and healthy, with good grains and not that whiter than white, fake thing that aspires to be a sponge rather than bread, packed with sugar and god knows what else. You know, the kind you’ll find at super markets.






Don’t get me wrong, I like white bread, I enjoy white bread, but if I’m going to eat it, I want it to be excellent.






I wish I had the time to make my own bread every single day but unfortunately that’s not possible. Whenever I do have time to make bread, I make the kind I love the most; the types of loaves I crave. One of them is this traditional Greek barley loaf.






It has an earthy, nutty flavor that’s difficult to find in other loaves. It has a hard crust and a soft yet dense crumb that’s ever-so-slightly moist with a distinct texture from the barley and whole wheat flour.






It is the ideal bread for dunking into sauces, into good Greek extra-virgin olive oil or into the juices of anything scrumptious you’ve cooked. It’s great cut into chunks and added into salads, made into croutons to have a kind of bite-sized Greek dako, accompanied by raw vegetables and some feta, made into a good sandwich.






Come to think of it, perhaps I should stop trying to find a good bakery and stick to my own bread for a while.











Greek Barley Bread

One of the things I love about this bread, apart from its flavor, is that it’s easy to make by hand. I never use a stand mixer for this like I do for other breads, because it comes together so easily and you don’t need to knead it for a long time.
Also, it keeps very very well for 4-5 days. You can’t say that for many breads now can you?






Yield: 1 loaf (900 g)

Ingredients
270 g whole barley flour
155 g whole wheat flour
150 g white strong bread flour
11 g instant dried yeast
½ Tbsp caster sugar
30 ml extra virgin olive oil
350 ml lukewarm water
¾ tsp sea salt

Special equipment: large bowl (large enough to knead the bread in with your hands), plastic wrap, Dutch oven, or pizza stone, or baking sheet for baking the bread, baking paper


Preparation
In a large bowl, add the flours, the yeast and sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil, water and salt. Mix with your hands until you have a rough dough and then start kneading. It will need about 5 minutes of kneading before you have a pliable dough that’s not sticking to your hands or to the sides of the bowl but remains slightly sticky. The dough will be kind of heavy due to the type of flours used, it will not be airy and light like a dough made exclusively with white flour.


Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. It will take about 40 minutes to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is.


Notes on baking the bread
I have baked this bread many times, mainly in three different ways: in a Dutch oven, on a pizza stone, and on a regular baking sheet. I have the best results when I bake it in the Dutch oven and on the pizza stone, and in the latter case I also put a baking pan to the bottom of the oven and as soon as I place the bread on the stone, I throw some ice cubes in the baking pan which creates steam; the steam allows the bread to rise without forming a crust right away and it also results in a perfect, crisp crust. The same result is achieved with the Dutch oven, because steam is created inside it as the bread bakes.

You can of course bake the bread on top of a baking sheet and add a baking pan to the bottom of the oven and then add ice cubes, but the pizza stone really makes a difference in the way the bread is baked because the stone (as well as the Dutch oven) retains heat well and it creates a beautiful texture to the crust, even at the bottom of the bread, whereas on a baking sheet, bread tends to easily burn on the bottom.

I don’t mean to discourage you in case you don’t have a Dutch oven or pizza stone but I want to be honest about the end result.

For baking in a Dutch oven or on a pizza stone, preheat your oven to 225 degrees Celsius / 435 Fahrenheit and place the Dutch oven (with the lid) or pizza stone in the oven. If you want, place a baking pan to the bottom of the oven to add the ice cubes later.
For baking on a baking sheet, preheat your oven to 180-185 degrees Celsius / 350-365 Fahrenheit.


Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a few seconds just to deflate it a bit on a clean surface (don’t flour the surface). It should feel smooth, somewhat soft and not sticky. Shape it into a ball and then press the top to flatten it. Using a large knife, slash the top (see photograph) and then:


If you’re baking in a Dutch oven (I use this one), take a large piece of baking paper, crimp it and line the Dutch oven with it. Place the dough on the baking paper, put on the lid and place Dutch oven in the oven. Immediately turn heat down to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the bread has taken on a golden brown color.

If you’re baking on a pizza stone, dust it with semolina before adding the dough on top. (If you’ve put a baking pan at the bottom, add at this point 10-12 large ice cubes and close immediately the oven door). Turn heat down to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 Fahrenheit and bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread has taken on a golden brown color.

If you’re baking on a baking sheet, line it with baking paper, add the dough on top and bake on the low rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Then transfer the baking sheet to the middle rack of the oven and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until the bread has taken on a golden brown color.

As a general rule, a bread loaf is ready when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!!





41 comments:

  1. Fortunately, I can find good bread around my neighbourhood. But, I also like to bake my own bread. So, when times are hetic like they are now, I always buy the bread. When I have a bit more of free time, I like to bake my own bread. So, this recipe of yours is a one to keep :)

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  2. With bread like that, who needs a bakery? :) Barley bread sounds hearty and excellent!

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  3. Oh gee, your bread looks to die for. I am so picky about bread too, and just cannot wait to step inside a real life fournos. Thanks for the recipe. I am making this very soon!!!!

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  4. Your photos are wonderful; I can smell the bread!

    First thing I always do when I move to another country (I've done that a lot) is try to find good bread. Not always possible, and I too have made my own bread. I love the no-knead bread that bakes in a Dutch oven. You mix water and flours of your choice with a mere pinch of yeast and let it all grow and bubble away in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours. Very interesting process!

    I have just moved to the south of France and have no problem finding good artisanal bread here of all sorts. Bread is sacred here, and not just the baguette. I love dark, crusty bread, like you.

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  5. Hi all and thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you like the bread!

    Miss Footloose — France has excellent bread, you're a lucky woman ;)

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  6. When I lived in Athens in the late '70's, I discovered that I was supposed to make a party on my own birthday... who knew? But, OMG, there was a bakery strike! Who could think of a party with no bread?

    So I asked a friend how to say "yeast" in Greek and wherever I might buy it? He told me a bakery... but I said I was certain they would not sell me yeast, surely? He told me they were open and they would sell me anything but bread. OooooKay... He wrote it down for me in Greek and off I went to Asimakopolos, a bakery in a parking garage that was everybody's favorite bakery for yogurt in the neighborhood... and he was right! They sold me a slab of yeast cake and asked me what I was going to do with it? I told them that I had to have bread for a party so I was going to make it.

    And they laughed at me and to each other at the sheer ridiculousness of someone MAKING their OWN bread!

    I was probably 19 or 20 at that time. And for the life of me, I could not see what was funny. I had been making bread since I was 12, mostly the Danish rye bread of my family's tradition... and I had not been happy with my white bread loaves, but still, surely it was better than nothing?

    Off I went home and made a few loaves from the recipe "Greek Country Bread" in a widely available tourist cookbook named "Cooking and Baking the Greek Way" by Anne Theoharris (or something close to that.) No problem. It was more complicated than I thought necessary, but it came out quite, quite wonderful.

    On the night of the party, everyone arrived and each tsk-tsked at the door about how, poor me, my party would not be very successful given the lack of bread. I said "I have bread." And they were shocked! Everybody wanted to know WHERE WAS THE BAKERY that was violating the strike??? (And HOW could they get some?)

    I said, "Well, I made it myself, of course."

    And nobody believed me. Until my friend who had aided me in the hunt for yeast arrived. Many still didn't believe me until I told them how I made it and to some I had to show the recipe! LOL!

    No doubt it was the highlight of my party, what with everyone having been starved for bread for a week or so. And they all tried to enlist me to bake for them! I had to secret a heel away to have any to go taunt the staff at Asimakopolos the next day... which of course I did... and they didn't believe me either... until with an off-hand air, I told them how I made it and that furthermore that I had baked bread since I was 12 and I asked them why everyone didn't bake since it was not much more difficult than any other reasonable dish... just took flour, water, yeast and time... furthermore, a perfectly wonderful recipe was available at 90% of the kiosks in the city! Where's the problem? They all looked quite sheepish, and my Greek was not quite good enough for me to catch all of what they whispered among themselves but I doubt it was very complimentary! LOL!!!

    Thanks for this barley bread recipe. It looks quite wonderful!

    Christina

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  7. Here's the cookbook I used:
    Cooking and baking the Greek way, by Anne Theoharous
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0030175216/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Long out of print, but still a wonderful cookbook. I have it in my library still, although, I did upgrade to a hardback that was not available to me in Greece at that time.

    Christina

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    1. I have just read that barley bread is being used by the Swedes for lowering glycemie. As a type 2 diabetic this recipe appeals as I don't like the bread which is recommended for diabetics and this looks really tasty. I just hope I can find the flour here in northern France.

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  8. In recent months I have limited my intake of breads and grains (for dietary reasons), but your amazing looking bread has me drooling! I will keep an eye out for barley flour and this give as try soon!

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  9. Xilia bravo Magda! We shall make this bread although we bought a DeLonghi bread machine (used for making bread and used as a normal oven) and we make regular olikis alesseos bread in it. Yours looks fantastic and I do want to make it. Question: Could I make bread rols for the table instead of one big loaf. i.e. cut the dough in small pieces and bake them? I would appreciate it if you would answer by e-mail smamatis@otenet.gr ... I can never find answers on your blog. Thanks

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  10. This looks great - and I am definitely into breads that are simple like this one! I am going to get some barley flour for this weekend! ~ David

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  11. It looks delicious, especially with feta and tomatoes.

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  12. Looks to me like you should hold onto that last thought. Perhaps if you bake a couple of large loaves when you have time, it could last you for a week or so. That bread looks wonderful.

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  13. Christina — thank you very much for sharing your experience with me and your memories of Greece in the '70s. I don't know why they found it funny that you wanted to make bread but I'm sure no one would think so now :)
    Thanks for the link to the book. It's a shame it's out of print because it looks interesting.

    Gerlinde in Dallas — barley flour is very good for you, perhaps you can give it a try!

    Stelios Nick Mamatis — of course you can make individual small breads. The only thing the changes is the baking time. Make sure you don't burn them :)

    David — hope you like it!

    Denise — thanks!

    Nuts about food — yes, I think so too :)

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  14. Just as I used up all my barley flour.

    At least now I know I can make a delicious looking loaf, instead of reserving it solely for pancakes and churros! Love the bread. And the oiled block of Feta!!!!

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  15. Again, we have more or less the same in Portugal! :-) I bake it a lot at home but with sourdough, I never buy instant yeast anymore. Yours looks lovely and tasty!

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    1. Thanks! I love sourdough too, but yeast is easier to handle. I am planning to make this with sourdough starter soon!

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  16. Recipes published in US should not be in metric system. They are a hell to convert and at the end you don't know if ithe conversion is right for the 250oz cups we use. It's been hell...

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    1. This is not a recipe published in the US!! I am a Greek living in the Netherlands. We use the metric system here in Europe. You should buy a scale and learn how to use it.

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  17. I know this post is old, but I'm curious: where is this bakery that makes amazing French baguettes? And the one where they make passable sourdough? I live in the Hague and have basiclaly resigned myself to Albert Heijn 'bread' at this point!! (or Maqt when I'm feeling rich!)

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    1. Hi Sophie, sorry for the late reply. The French one is in the center and it's called Michel and the other one is in Zeeheldenkwartier but I don't remember the name of the bakery.

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  18. Hmm I had the same bread problem, but then in Iceland- and there are also no substitutes for bread where I am. I'm actually Dutch, and I can tell you that the bread problem here is worse;) Luckily, there is barley and this bread is just delicious!! thanks so much for the recipe!

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  19. Could this also be used to make dakos? My bigger problem is sourcing barley flour in Asia!

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    1. Yes, it can however I make a few tweaks before I make dakos with this.

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  20. Wow, this looks awesome, can't wait to try. I'm a sourdough baker, so I'm going to convert this and see how it goes. Thanks so much for sharing :)

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  21. Delicious! I used a food processor with a plastic dough blade, mixing until just combined. After the ingredients combined to a dough, I let it rest in the machine for 10 minutes then turned it back on for long enough for the dough to form a ball. The dough was soft, but not sticky. Very easy technique for arthritic hands.

    It seemed easier to put the loaf on the parchment, then lower the whole thing into the hot casserole, rather than put the parchment in first, then put the loaf in on top of that. Baked it using a Scanpan Classic low casserole with glass lid as a Dutch oven.

    This bread would be wonderful with soup and could be ready in the same time it took to simmer a potful. I'm sure I will be making it often, summer and winter. Thank you for the recipe!

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  22. Magda,the bread looks do tempting & yummy !
    Thx for sharing the recipe. Do tell me if I could substitute wheat in place of bread flour too.

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    1. Hello there, you are welcome. You are referring to whole wheat I suppose, because bread flour is also wheat flour. The bread flour gives some elasticity to the bread, that's why I use it, but you can substitute with whole wheat. You will have to adjust the water in the recipe so the dough is not too dry.

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    2. Oh ! Thank U. That was very quick. Thanks for clarifying. I always thought that bread flour referred to all purpose flour which I like to avoid.
      Shall definitely try your recipe and revert.

      Thanks a ton again !

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    3. @Anonymous Bread flour is more similar to all purpose in that it is not a whole grain (usually) but processed wheat and ground more finely. It is very difficult if not impossible to bake a 'loaf' of bread with 100% barley as it has very little gluten. See- orgiathu.

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  23. Hello Magda. I have made this bread three times and it was so easy to make because your explanations and pictures are wonderful. I gave the last I made to the family in law of my brother who kindly made the flour from the cereals I got from my family in the centre of Spain . They said it looked worderful and the taste was grate. It was just because you recepie and your blog are made whith a lot of care and love and I want to thank you. I live in the north of Spain and found your blog looking for barley bread but now I see it regularly . It is one of my favourites now. Thank you very. wata

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    1. Dear Wata. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and kind words. I am so happy that you enjoy my blog and my recipes. This is a bread I love very much and it fills me with joy that you and your family like it too! Muchas gracias!

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  24. Hello, I really would like to make this bread but cannot get hold of barley flour. Would it be ok to replace it with wholemeal?

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    1. Hello there. You can replace it, but you will have a totally different bread. Be careful with the amount of water because barley flour is more dry than whole wheat flour so you may need less water. Just add it a little a time. Good luck!

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  25. Summer here in Australia, so baking holds little appeal, and bread can go mouldy in a couple of days. I made a half recipe and cooked it in a one litre slow cooker that I put outside on a covered patio; perfect! I put the dough into the cold, well buttered slow cooker with a paper towel under the lid to prevent moisture from dripping onto the loaf. Set on high, the bread was cooked in 90 minutes. The top of the loaf doesn't brown, but I'm wiling to sacrifice that in exchange for not heating the house up. Lovely to have fresh bread, even when it is so hot.

    Thank you again for this recipe. I still bake wheat loaves, but make this one about every third loaf as a delicious change.

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    1. Thank you Polly for your feedback. I'm so glad you enjoyed my recipe! :)

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  26. I have been making my own bread using my mother's Greek recipe, but since being diagnosed with diabetes I wanted to bake bred with barley flour and your recipe Magda is fantastic. I am going to bake it tomorrow and will be thinking of you. Thank you for sharing this recipe with all of us.

    Despina

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    1. Thank you so much Despina. I hope you enjoy my recipe! :)

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  27. Hello
    Can I get the cup Ingredients

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    1. I never measure by volume, only by weight, so I can't help you with that.

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    2. Do you know the size of your cups? To convert the cup measurements still used in some US recipes I use Traditional Oven and King Arthur websites. This will work in reverse for you, wanting to get cup equivalents. One calculator, two websites and about 10 minutes will get you what you want. Or just buy a cheap set of scales on eBay :-)

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