Homemade Bread (Greek Style)

I can’t thank my friends and family enough for all the support they give me for my cooking endeavors. Family friends have always been a big part of my life and this next recipe was taught to me by our Greek family, Auntie Helen and Grandma Bille. Grandma Billie is from the Thessaloniki, Greece. She has mastered pretty much everything Greek including the most basic of foods, bread. When I heard that she could make bread, and claimed that it was easy, I pretty much invited myself over, to learn her secrets. Luckily, she was glad to have me and I was ecstatic to learn how to make bread, because I always struggle making bread. I also thought it is a good thing to know, just because I don’t think anyone knows how to make homemade bread these days (at least in America), pretty much because there is no time and we don’t have to. So this could be a real treat for those who want to taste the real thing.

It’s definitely not easy, and there is no getting around the day long process of waiting for the dough to rise, so it takes time, but it really is worth it and can keep in the fridge or freezer for a while. I took plenty pictures I will post here, in a attempt to remember the exact way Grandma Billie instructed me to do, pretty much trying to learn from all the experience she has had. I have yet to try it myself, but maybe I will post my attempts when I do.
Another thanks to Auntie Helen and Grandma Bille for their hospitality and support. Sharing a meal of homemade bread, and goat stew with them made me feel like I was in Greece. The Greek coffee, cookies, and watching the Greek network made me reminisce on my favorite place I have visited in my travels thus far. Thanks!

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Ingredients (for 5 loaves of bread):
  • 5 lbs. all purpose, unbleached flour + some for dusting
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • About 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • Pam
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • About 2 handfuls Wheat germ or bran (optional)
  • Medium saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Flour sifter
  • 5 aluminum pans
  • 1 small bowl for egg
  • 1 brush
Preheat oven to 420 F.
1. Put about 4 cups water and salt into a medium saucepan. Its okay if you put a little more water, because you will just be taking as much water out to activate the yeast. Put the burner on the lowest setting to allow water to just warm for about one minute. The water needs to be slightly warm to activate the yeast. Then, have a small container ready to put the yeast in. Then, add the water slowly, stirring the yeast and water. Add the water gradually. Let the water and yeast sit while you complete the next step. Make sure to set aside the water in the saucepan for later use.

2. Sift 5 lbs flour into a large bowl. (Add the wheat, wheat germ, or bran at this point, if you would like. Just add one or two handfuls. Adding too much will cause the bread too become too dense.)
3. Mix the yeast and water. The mixture should resemble watery peanut butter.
4. Add the yeast mixture to the flour. Add a little more water from the warmed water in the saucepan to combine the dough- make sure the water is warm, but not hot to touch, because hot water will kill the yeast. Add more warm water to the dough as needed but keep it a little sticky until you work it more.
5. Work the dough until its consistent throughout, then add a little flour on the sides of the bowl, very slowly, to get all the dough off the sides.
6. Pinch the dough with your fingers and really work it at this point. Knead 15 minutes +. Sprinkle flour in the bowl, punch down, fold over, and punch more. Eventually add a little more water just on your hands and sides of bowl. Its okay to add a little more water, so that the dough is all wet. The more water you add, the more fluffy and airy it will be.
7. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix in.
8. Cover bowl with towel surrounded by blanket to let it rise for about 1 hour.

9. After, the dough has doubled in size again, beat 1 whole egg in a small bowl.
10. After 1 hour, or the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Get a sharp knife and cut the dough into 5 sections, separating one at a time. Roll each section for about 1 minute, work to get air out- use ball of hand just to roll, don’t punch.

11. Use Pam spray to coat 5 aluminum pans. Place each dough segment in a ball on each aluminum pan. Then, let them sit covered with towel or blanket, and let rise for 30 minutes.

12. After the dough has doubled in size, beat 1 egg in a small bowl. Use a brush to brush the bread tops with egg. Then, sprinkle with sesame seeds, immediately after brushing with egg so the sesames will stick.

13. Then, poke 5 holes in the center and sides so it doesn’t explode over.
14. Change the oven setting to 400 F, from 420 F. Then, put all 5 breads in on the lower rack and higher rack. Make sure to switch the breads for the other rack to ensure even baking. Cook for about 1 hour or more, or until brown on top and bottom.

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