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from Marianne Kavroulakis

And from a peculiar way of  baking or roasting it, there is a loaf called ipnites (or the
oven loaf) which Timocles mentions in his Sham Robbers, where he says —
And seeing there a tray before me full
of smoking oven-loaves, I took and ate them. (THE DEIPNOSOPHISTS. [b. III. , 74])

In the past, wood oven (or fourno in Greek) was an essential tool in homemade bread baking, in preparing rusks and drying fruit and nuts.

Cyclades islands faced acute fuel shortage, thus the oven was traditionally heated with dried brushwood meticulously picked from the countryside. Sheep manure was also used as fuel.  On the other hand, the ovens in Crete and Pelloponese are heated with olive wood since olive cultivation is widespread across these regions. Ovens in central Greece are heated with oak wood and wood of the beech tree.

Traditionally, food demanding the higher temperature, such as bread, was baked after the ashes and embers are pushed aside or swept out of the oven. The remaining heat was not wasted: food baked in lesser temperatures followed, and after that it could be used for preparing rusks and drying fruit and nuts.

Today wood ovens do a lot of meat roasting and less bread making.


Attica, ca 1947 (Photo by Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images)
Bread still means everything in Greece though.

Large ovens are more fuel-efficient. For this reason many old agricultural houses have really large constructions. They were used for baking large quantities of bread and barley rusks few times a year or for cooking for large groups of people.

A large Cretan oven (base diam.: 2,10 m.) The entrance is in the kitchen; it is above a double fire – place which was used as a source of heat, for roasting or for cooking for special occasions. 

A second, smaller oven was occasionally built for regular use.

 Karpathos (Greece On April 01, 1980 by Francois Le Diascorn- Getty Images)

Outdoor ovens are usually placed in the yard of the house, oriented to take advantage of prevailing winds for better dissipation of smoke.

If people didn’t have an oven they used to take the dough to large, community owned ovens, specially built for baking bread and rusks. The public ovens were also a place for women to socialize and share stories and news.
 Today, in most parts of Greece, the old communal bread ovens are gone. At the same time, restaurants begun to offer many dishes cooked on the hearth of a brick oven.
Theophilos, 1933

However, Greeks keep up another  old tradition; they pay a few euros to a professional  baker to put pies, meat and other dishes in his oven.

Bakehouse, Volos

A crunchy wonderful crust is one of the foremost features of wood-oven baked loaves.

Olive-cheese-tomato breadWomen used a piece of bread dough to check the oven temperature. Sometimes they let the dough be plain and prepared a quick, tasty bread for children.

for the starter:
1 cup (120 g) of wholewheat flour

 1 cup (240 ml) of water

for the bread
1 1/2 cup bread flour

1 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup of prepared starter
 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, without skin
up to 1 cup of warm water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/3 tsp salt
Stir the starter mixture using a wooden spoon. Cover it with a hand towel and place it  in a dark, warm place to promote the fermentation process.

Mix flour, starter, tomato, salt and 3/4 of water together in a large bowl.  Knead for about 4-5 minutes. The dough will look very dry, so add more water and knead again.  If the dough is too wet, add a tablespoon or two of flour, if it is dry add more water. In any case, knead for another minute or two, until the dough barely sticks on your fingers.
Spray the inside of a  bowl with olive oil, place the dough into the bowl and cover it with a a piece of plastic wrap and a towel.
Let it rise all night.
Next morning, sprinkle the dough with some flour, knead it gently for 3-4 minutes and flatten it using your hands. Add the olives and the feta cheese, sprinkle with thyme and knead the dough into a small round circle.
Spray the inside of a baking dish with olive oil, then sprinkle some flour and place the dough on it. Let it rise for 1 hour and bake it until golden brown (preheated oven, 180C).


Source: History of Greek Food

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