GREEK BAKERIES - FOURNOS
You will find Greek Bakeries - Fournos, in every village and neighbourhood in Greece.
The Greek Bakery has always played an important role in every day Greek life, providing Greek Breads for every religious holiday.
The Greek word for Bakery is Fournos which means "Oven".
Not only is
Greek Bread - Psomi,
eaten at every meal, it has such a greater significance to all Greeks. Bread literally is the sustenance of life. Being a country that has lived through great poverty - in those poor times bread kept people alive.
In a religious country as Greece, it also plays a huge religious significance. There is a special bread to be made for every Christian occasion - name days, fasting days, days of remembrance, feast days, holy days including Christopsomo for Christmas and a
Bread is made in many shapes, all of them significant for the purpose they are celebrating.
Christopsomo will either be in the shape of a cross or have a cross marked on top.
Tsoureki is made up of three strands braided together to represent the Holy Trinity. Other shapes include star shaped bread, circular ring shapes and knotted bread.
Some bread is made from wheat, but barley and corn is also used for many Greek breads. Greek Bread has always been made using the starter method, which gives it that weighty feel to it. As well as coming in many shapes, there are many flavourings added to breads, sweet and savoury bread, fruit bread, currants and sultanas are popular additions, orange rind for flavour as well as sesame seeds and aniseed.
With food being used to celebrate every occasion, its probably not surprising to find there are many Greek sayings comparing life with bread.
Another important role of Greek bakeries in recent Greek history, when families were poor and didn't own ovens, women would prepare their trays of food for that day's meal and take it to the local bakery.
The baker, once he had finished baking his bread for the day, would then put these large trays of food from the villagers into the large ovens for cooking.
If you passed near a bakery around midday when many of these meals were almost ready you would be greeted with the pleasant aroma of the baked food wafting down the street.
Then, as if by clockwork, you would see all the Greek housewives scurrying out of their houses to the bakery, to collect their cooked food, greet all the other women and then return home! A daily occurence in every village!
When you are in Greece, you must visit a Greek bakery. The Greek bread is very different to the bread you would have tasted at home.
The most popular type is called Horiatiki Psomi - a country or rustic loaf. It has a dense, thick dough, very flavoursome. Dry enough to dip in the Greek salad or dips, moist enough to eat on its own. The Greeks don't spread butter on their bread. The outside has a thick hard crust. When toasted and drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano - there is no better flavour.
Paximadia is a type of rusk, that you can get from most bakeries. They are very tasty, made from barley or whole wheat. They are very popular in Crete, although now you will find them all over Greece, in bakeries and supermarkets.
After cooking, they are left to cool, thickly sliced, then cooked a second time to create a very hard, dry rusk.
These can then be kept dry in the pantry for months until you wish to eat them.
To eat, first soak them in a bowl of water to hydrate them, then drain and wrap in a clean tea towel to absorb any excess liquid. They are then soft and ready to eat.
Our favourite recipe using paximadia is to drizzle with olive oil, then shake some salt, pepper and oregano over the oil. A couple of thin slices of tomatoes or grated tomato and top with crumbled feta. A perfect snack!
There are many other treats to eat for snacks in Greek bakeries. Some will sell pies, there will be sweet and savoury rolls, paximathia rusks, biscuits and cakes. Just the aroma drifting down the street will surely have your taste buds watering and pull you in before you even realised you were hungry!
If you're looking for a quick midday snack, to keep you going whilst on your travels the best you can get is a fresh loaf of bread, a chunk of feta, a couple of fresh tomatoes and a handful of olives. Sit under the shade of an olive tree with a view of the Greek countryside, throw in a bottle of wine and you are in Greek Heaven!
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