Horiatiko Psomi (Crusty Country Bread)

Slices of country bread
Elke Selzle / Getty Images
  • Total: 60 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Rise: 3 hrs
  • Servings: 12 to 16 servings
  • Yields: 3 loaves

In Greek, this bread is called χωριάτικο ψωμί (pronounced hoh-ree-AH-tee-koh psoh-MEE).

In villages around Greece, this classic bread is still baked in outdoor wood-burning ovens. This bread is ​denser than other types of bread (the loaf at right measures about 13 inches across and weighs a little more than 2 pounds) and can be made with a variety of flours or a combination of more than one.

If you have your own sourdough starter, use 1/2 pound (slightly less than one cup for most starters) in place of the yeast in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce fresh yeast (or 2 tablespoons dry yeast)
  • 3 cups (24 fl oz) lukewarm water, divided
  • 1/2 cup/62 g flour
  • 8 1/2 cups bread flour/1 kilogram and 62 grams (whole wheat, barley, white, corn, or other)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (20 fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water.

  3. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of flour and mix until all lumps of flour have dissolved to form a thick liquid. Allow it to rise about 15 to 20 minutes.​ (Note: If using a sourdough starter, omit this step and make a sponge with 1/2 pound of starter, the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup of flour. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.)

  4. Sift the remaining 8 cups flour with the salt, put in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the center. Add the milk, oil, honey, yeast mixture (or sourdough starter), and 2 cups of the lukewarm water in the well.

  5. Pulling in the flour slowly, mix with hands until it's a cohesive mass. (If more water is needed, add in small amounts from the remaining 1/2 cup.)

  6. Turn out onto a floured surface and continue kneading until the dough is nice and smooth and no longer sticks to the hands.

  7. Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and roll until all sides of the dough are lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with 3 dishtowels: one dry, one dampened with warm water (wet towel and wring out), and the other dry. Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  8. Punch down and knead the dough for 5 to 6 minutes on a floured surface. Divide the dough into the number of loaves you want to make (this works well in 3 to 4 loaves), and form into round or oblong or baguette shaped loaves.

  9. Place several inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets and cover with the 3 dishtowels (the middle one damp). In a warm place, allow the loaves to rise for 1 hour.

  10. Preheat the oven to 450 F/220 C.​ For a thicker crust, score the tops of the loaves in 3 or 4 places. Otherwise, bake as is on the rack just below the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until browned. When tapped on the bottom, the bread will sound hollow.

  11. When the loaves are done, remove from oven and cool on racks.

Tips

  • Use a good "strong" flour - i.e., hard flour, also known as bread flour.
  • If the honey you're using is very thick, place the jar in a saucepan containing 1 inch of water and warm.
  • No honey on hand, or don't care for it? Leave it out.