There is nothing more basic in a diet than bread. Therefore a healthy diet begins with healthy bread and Cretans eat a lot of it with every meal. The most traditional Cretan bread is the barley rusk (“dakos”) which is very difficult and time consuming to prepare at home. Apart from “dakos”, Cretans eat a great deal of whole grain bread. Our personal favourite whole grain bread, both in terms of flavour and its health benefits, is a combination of three kinds of wholemeal flour (“aleuri olikis”), namely spelt (“aleuri zeas”), rye (“aleuri sikalis”) and wheat flour (“starenio aleuri“). Below we provide a generic recipe for making bread in the traditional hand made way that can be executed with any kind of flour suitable for baking. Note that the provided flour types and quantities used correspond to our own favourite flour and seed combination. If you have a bread maker follow this link (Cretan healthy bread with a breadmaker) to see bread maker version of this recipe.
Spelt flour is full of fiber, vitamins (especially of the B family), minerals and also a good source of protein. Spelt is known to assist metabolism, ease digestion, improve circulation of blood and lower cholesterol levels. It has also been suggested that spelt strengthens the immune system and controls blood sugar levels. Rye bread is a dietary fiber bomb, contains a lot of magnesium (which regulates blood pressure) and controls blood sugars. It is low in calories and therefore diet friendly. Wheat wholemeal flour is also fairly rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals although less so compared to spelt or rye wholemeal. However, wheat flour gives volume to our bread and is therefore desirable. A very Cretan addition to our bread a little carob flour, being full of antioxidants, calcium and fiber while providing a little of its natural sweetness. Last but not least, we add also broken linseed (also known as flaxseed) which helps greatly our digestive system due to its fiber content, is high in omega-3 fatty acids (lowers cholesterol levels) and a good source of lignans that some people argue they have anti-cancer effects. Note that linseeds should be broken in order for its nutrients to be easily absorbed by our digestive system. The healthiness score of this recipe is a well deserved 3 out of 3 (🥑🥑🥑).
Below we provide the more complicated version of this vegan bread recipe, which is hand made. A main advantage of this method is that we can produce greater quantities of bread as usually bread makers have a maximum capacity of 1 Kg. The total process takes approximately as long as it does with a bread maker, although it requires the manual effort of dough kneading. It takes approximately 4 hours for a bread maker to produce a loaf of 1 kg wholemeal bread, whereas our hand made method requires approximately 3.5 hours, including kneading, rising and baking. The time score is therefore a 3 out of 3 (⌛⌛⌛).
This way we produce 3 loaves of bread of approximately 4.5 Kg in total which provide around 15 servings. We give this recipe with our particular flour combination an overall score of 3 out of 3, as the outcome is delicious and healthy bread (😋😋😋).
Note: You can execute the recipe below with any kind of flour suitable for baking, however the quality and nutritional value of the used flour determines the flavour and the health benefits of our bread.
The ingredients for this recipe are readily accessible everywhere (apart from the carob flour which is a little trickier to find sometimes). Therefore the ingredients score is 1 out of 3 (🔎). The ingredients are as follows:
- 600 gr of spelt wholemeal flour
- 600 gr of rye wholemeal flour
- 700 gr of wheat wholemeal flour (we add a bit more wheat flour to help the volume of our loaves)
- 100 gr carob flour (cornmeal could be used instead)
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 1.5 teaspoons of honey
- 4 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
- ~21 gr (3 tablespoons) dry yeast
- 1 teacup of seeds, such as broken linseed, poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Water as need so that the dough does not stick to our hands
Hand made bread preparation is a fairly complex process which requires some skill and effort; the preparation score is 3 out of 3 (🍳🍳🍳). Follow the steps as shown below:
- Mix all the ingredients into a receptacle suitable for dough kneading.
- Tip: Make sure that the yeast is not in direct touch with the salt, as the salt cancels out the effect of the yeast.
- Add little lukewarm water (it is important that water is not hot so that it does not cook our yeast!) and start kneading the dough.
- Keep adding lukewarm water and kneading until you obtain a soft, elastic and homogeneous dough that does not stick to your hands.
- Spread a little olive oil and some flour (of any kind) on 3 baking trays.
- Divide the dough into 3 parts and place it into the respective trays. Make sure that the dough is well adjusted into the trays (you can use a flexible spatula to smoothen it).
- Place the trays covered with a clean tea towel in a dry place having room temperature for approximately 2 hours until the volume of the dough is approximately doubled.
- Bake in forced air for around 45 mins in 180 °C (or 356 °F)
- When baking is over, remove the hot loaves from the trays, spray a tiny bit of water over it and wrap it with a clean towel. This will make our bread crunchier, as it helps it discard all its steam.
- Wait until the bread loaf acquires room temperature. Then you can slice it and can either directly consume it or store it.
Tip: if you do not have purpose made baking trays you can split your dough into three parts and place them on three generic baking trays of smaller size. Make sure you spread some olive oil and flour on baking paper before putting the dough.
When the bread acquires room temperature, slice it according to your wishes, place it in food storage bags and then in the freezer. There it keeps very well and can be very easily and quickly unfrozen using a normal or a sandwich toaster. This way we can have fresh bread for days!
You can eat this delicious bread any time during the day and with any meal. At breakfast time spread some plant based butter and jam. If you want a more Cretan version, spread some ricotta or mizithra cheese with thyme honey on top.
It greatly accompanies any kind of soup, such as fish soup, lentil soup, bean soup or chickpea soup. It also matches very well any vegetable based Cretan or mediterranean dish, such as okra, green beans or briam.
Recipe last edited: 06/03/2019
© Recipe and photos by Agisilaos Papadogiannis