Let the bins be full and the dough always overflow the kneading trough. —Homer, Epigrams
Bread making was passed on by the Egyptians to Greeks, then the Greeks taught the Romans how to make it. The ancient Greeks considered bread making an early mark of civilization that lifted them above other people. The Romans grew to love Greek bread so highly that almost all the bakers in the entire Roman Empire were Greeks. The Greeks developed and mastered bread. They developed the techniques of separating the husks and other indelible parts of the grain from the nutritious kernel. They discovered which types of flours were suited for which breads, and they used all types of grains and made unleavened breads raised with a starter of baking powder called nitron (“natron”). They also had wine-based yeast from the fermentation of grapes.
The bread of Athens and Megara had a well-deserved reputation because its whiteness dazzled the eye and its taste was exquisite. It was delicately kneaded with honey or wine, and cheeses were often mixed in. The Greeks baked their breads in ovens, under ashes, over coals, and between two pieces of iron molds.
I have garnished my bread with poppy seeds, as they did in ancient times.
Makes 1 large loaf (about 12 pieces)
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon mastiha
- 2 pounds self-rising flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 0.25-ounce sachet (7 grams) dried yeast
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, to garnish
Place the sugar and mastiha in a mortar and pestle and pound until you get a smooth powder.
Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the sea salt and the mastiha and sugar mixture.
Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water and pour it into the well in the flour. Add the olive oil. Mix all the ingredients and gradually add the remaining water while mixing with your hands until a firm dough forms. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and set aside for at least 1 hour until the dough has almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a round roll. Place the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a tea towel, and leave for another 30 minutes. Brush the top of the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with the poppy seeds, then bake in the oven for about 40–45 minutes until the bread is golden brown and cooked through.
Serve while still warm.
Recipe reprinted with permission from the book/eBook “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health” by Maria Benardis.