Why do we strive to eat like lords when humble peasant dishes are so tasty?
Last week we celebrated Greek food over on my Mediterranean food blog, and I wanted to make some authentic bread to go with the olives, Feta and stuffed pies. This old-fashioned peasant bread was the perfect recipe.
At least 90% of my bread making is sourdough based. I prefer the flavor that sourdough imparts, and find most straight dough breads a bit insipid. But not Greek Country Bread. This heavy artisan bread is full of flavor, and will be ready by dinnertime if you start right now!
The unexpected flavor comes from good quality honey and olive oil, and barley flour. Barley flour is high in fiber and adds a rich nutty flavor to the bread. You can find barley flour at your local health food or natural foods store, or online.
As with many of my Mediterranean style recipes, inspiration came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman.
3 cups hi-gluten bread flour
2 1/3 cups barley flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ - 2 cups lukewarm water
Add all ingredients to a large bowl, or a stand mixer bowl. Mix well to combine. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or using a stand mixer for 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Gently fold to deflate. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a floured brotform.*
*Although I wanted the bread to be round, I did not want it to have the concentric brotform circles. So I first lined the brotform with a piece of parchment paper. You could also shape the dough into a free-form oval. Cover and let rise 1½ to 2 hours or until doubled.
Preheat oven and baking stone to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently flip the bread out of the brotform and onto a parchment lined peel. Score the round with a sharp knife. Slide the loaf onto the baking stone and bake for 25 - 40 minutes, or until interior temperature reaches 200 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool for up to an hour before slicing.
The traditional way to serve Greek Country Bread is with Feta, olives, and maybe a sliced, ripe tomato. Sounds like the perfect meal to me. The bread interior may seem almost undercooked. This is in part, due to the barley flour, a low-gluten, high fiber flour that lends itself to a dense, filling bread. In other words, the perfect medieval peasant bread is still perfect centuries later, for all of us.