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Horiatiko Psomi: Crusty Country Bread

User Rating 4 Star Rating (13 Reviews)

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Crustry Greek Country Bread - Greek Food Photos

Crusty Greek Country Bread

Photo © Jim Stanfield

In Greek: χωριάτικο ψωμί, pronounced hoh-ree-AH-tee-koh psoh-MEE

In villages around Greece, this classic bread is still baked in outdoor wood-burning ovens. This bread is more dense than other types of bread (the loaf at right measures about 13 inches across and weighs a little more than 2 pounds) and can be made with a variety of flours or a combination of more than one. If you have your own sourdough starter, use 1/2 pound (slightly less than one cup for most starters) in place of the yeast in the recipe.

Prep Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce of fresh yeast or 2 tablespoons of dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl.oz) of lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (62g) of flour (whatever type used for bread)
  • 2 1/5 pounds (1 kilo / 8 cups) of bread flour (whole wheat, barley, white, corn, or other)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (20 fl.oz) of lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey

Preparation:

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.

    Note: If using sourdough starter, omit this step, and make a sponge with 1/2 pound of starter, the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup of flour. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.

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 (or sourdough starter), 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.

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 dishtowels: one dry, one dampened with warm water (wet towel and wring out), and the other dry. Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down and knead for 5-6 minutes on a floured surface. Divide the dough into the number of loaves you want to make (this works well in 3-4 loaves), and form into round or oblong or baguette shaped loaves. Place several inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets and cover with 3 clean dishtowels (the middle one damp). In a warm place, allow the loaves to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450F (220C).

    Note: The baking temperature has been adjusted down in response to reader comments.

For a thicker crust, score the tops of the loaves in 3 or 4 places (see photo). Otherwise, bake as 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.

Notes:

  • Use a good "strong" flour - i.e., hard flour, also known as bread flour.
  • If the honey you're using is very thick, place the jar in a saucepan containing 1 inch of water and warm.
  • No honey on hand, or don't care for it? Leave it out.

Reader Comments:

Teresa writes: "Last weekend I made your Crusty Country Bread and it turned out great! ... The only thing I will change next time is to add a little more salt and lower the oven temperature to 450 as the 465 temp was just too high resulting in quite brown bread."

User Reviews

 5 out of 5
My family's favorite, Member chefwoo

I am a semi-retired chef and teach basic bread baking. This delicious bread is as my wife remembers from her 2 hippie-era years in Greece. It has, with its variations, become my general-purpose bread for toasting, sandwiches, serving with soups, stews or barbecue. It has a chewy robust crumb structure and lends itself to various shapes, toppings and glazes. I have played with different flour combinations, including a 100% whole wheat pan loaf for my diabetic friends. As with most white breads it benefits from substituting whole wheat, spelt or coarse rye for 5%-10% of the white flour. The recipe is so simple it is one I demonstrate for my students. As honey has not been included in the ingredients list, I have used 2 tablespoons honey. I have further dropped the temperature to 425 to prevent too dark a bottom crust. Though it is very forgiving, this bread does not do well with raisins added.

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