Bread has been a staple of the Greek diet since antiquity, much like in other cultures world-wide. Definitely not the place for low-carb diet trends!
Here in the States, we use our bread primarily for sandwiches so we can eat food without getting it entirely all over our hands. To some extent, Greeks do that with pita type breads, but much of the bread eaten is used as a polite alternative to licking the plate clean. Generally, swirling your tongue all around to get the last slurps of soup or gravy is heavily frowned upon.
Χωριατικο ψωμι (hoh-ree-ah-tee-KOH psoh-MEE), which just means “Village Bread”, is a simple white bread with a little kick from olive oil. This makes for an excellent sandwich bread, as well as an even more excellent sponge for soaking up those last tidbits of juices from salads, soups, roasted vegetables, roasts… okay everything!
You could bake this bread in a regular bread pan so that it can be sliced and used for sandwich bread. It has a firm texture that holds together well, but isn’t dry. Traditionally it will be formed into a ball and baked that way to be sliced and served as a side with meals. Either way, you will have yourself an easy and reliable bread recipe to use time and again!
Greek Village Bread Recipe
- 2 cups warm water (around 100-110 F)
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp.)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 6 – 7 cups bread flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put the water in a small bowl and add the yeast and sugar. Gently stir until the sugar and yeast are dissolved. Set the bowl aside. This will give the yeast a chance to become rehydrated and activated before adding to the flour. You should see the liquid becoming foamy on the surface within several minutes.
In another bowl, measure out 6 cups of the bread flour and add the salt. I measure the flour by whisking it then lightly scooping it into the measuring cup. Whisk together the flour and the salt until combined.
If you are using a stand mixer, place the yeast solution into the bowl and use the hook attachment. Add the flour with the mixer on low speed and continue to knead with the hook until the flour is incorporated. Other wise, add the yeast solution to the bowl with the bread flour and mix by hand until the flour is completely mixed in.
Continue to knead the dough, adding in just enough flour so that the dough is not super sticky and pulls away from bowl. I usually do not add more than 1/3 to 1/2 cup more. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
This will make two loaves, so divide the dough into two equal parts. Shape each into a ball, and place the balls into a greased bowl, coating them all around with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside somewhere warm and draft-free to rise. An oven with the light on works very well. Allow the dough to rise until the balls are doubled in size. This could take 2-3 hours or more depending on the quality of your yeast.
After the dough has risen, pull apart the two balls and lightly knead again. Shape each how you wish. If you want to bake them in a loaf pan, lightly oil the pan and shape the loaf to fit. Otherwise shape them in a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Return again to their previous location to allow them to rise again. Allow the loaves to rise until they are doubled in size.
Once the loaves are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 F. If your loaves were in the oven to rise, remove them first. Once the oven is heated, place the loaves in and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the loaves are browned and are cooked through. Remove the loaves from the oven. Carefully take them out of the pan and place on a cooling rack. Allow the loaves to cool completely before cutting, otherwise the loaves will get dried out when the steam escapes. Enjoy!