Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bread Oven Greece
Baking the traditional way in Olymbos
Note the baking height. This baker will not have to stoop over (which is so often the case) while baking.

Yes, that's the smell of bread baking as you wander the footpaths and steps connecting the cubed houses. Bread means everything in Olympos. Planting of the wheat and barley starts in December and initiates the cycle of life in the village. The cycle continues through the harvesting and milling and the baking of the bread is done just as in days of old. Of the original 80 windmills, only a few are still in operation today.

Olympos bread is dark and heavy. The dough is simply wheat and barley flour, water and yeast. The origin of the yeast is mystical because all it requires is to put a mixture of water and flour out in the fresh mountain air. But legend says this must be done on that full moon night when the tide runs highest.

There's nothing mysterious about the bread recipes themselves. Family recipes are happily exchanged, some with poppy, others with sesame seeds. The dough is kneaded, beaten, and boxed until the mass reaches the right consistency. While the dough is being prepared, the outdoor ovens are filled with olive branches. After an hour of preheating, the glowing ashes are swept with a broom to one side to make way for the bread.

Each matriarch uses a wooden seal to mark her round loaves before they are considered ready for the long uphill journey. Women in traditional dress trek up goat trails to the stone ovens scattered around the hillsides to bake the loaves much the way their grandmothers and great-grandmothers did for their families. Baking time is two to three hours, depending on the size of the loaves. As a general rule of thumb, if the kneading starts at midnight, the bread will be done before dawn.

circa 1947: A farmer's wife in Attica, Greece, attending to bread she is baking in an old stone oven in her kitchen. She is using a long handled shovel. (Photo by Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hallo Evans,
beautiful website that breadhunter. I work in a small village on the Marmaris Peninsula, southwest Turkey. I want to start a project for travellers to bake bread with village women to try to keep the 'tradition' alive instead that villagers start to buy bad quality white 'city bread'. I have a website for stainable tourism ( At the moment I have no picture of bread baking village women. My request is: can I use one of yours, i.e. the woman baking in her kitchen or the woman in blue and black in front of her oven. With kind regard, gerard oude hergelink.