AN ODE TO BREAD
I LOVE bread. It’s one of those foods I cannot live without, I can barely get through a day without having at least one piece of toast. This is probably due to being raised with bread as a staple dish at every meal. Even to this day, I can’t take my grandma to the fanciest of restaurants without her complaining about the lack of bread with each course! But what I love the most is the rich history which comes with every bite of chewy, sour, yeasty crumb.
The earliest bread was made in or around 8000BC, particularly around Egypt. Grains were crushed, water was added and the first unleavened breads were made; similar to what we know as flatbreads, chapatis or tortillas. Beer loving Egyptians decided to get creative and the leavened breads were born. They even harnessed the properties of wild yeasts, resulting in something not so different to what we call sourdough. The bread you ate would determine your social status, the darker the bread, the poorer you were. And while bread never had it’s own hashtag trend, the word quickly spread and soon different varieties of bread were being baked all over the world, from hot stone ovens, over coals or in tandoors.
Turkish pide breads in wood fire oven
It has since then become the most widely consumed food in the world, still valued highly in religious worship, funeral rituals and your daily breakfast routine. In Turkish culture, breads vary from leavened loaves enriched with olive oil and scattered with sesame leaves, to unleavened flatbreads like gözleme, a pancake like sheet, loaded with fillings. Stretchy flat doughs were rolled and pastries formed - often served interchangeably, as either a sweet or savoury meal. For example, a ‘borek’ (pastry) filled with a salty cheese, may then be pimped up as a sweet afternoon treat when drizzled with honey or tahini.
Photography by Holly Farrier
Bread making itself is the most therapeutic activity, so much that I would love to hold a bread-yoga workshop one day. Getting your hands in the dough to feel it’s stretch and give, the love you feel as you watch it grow into a fluffy pillow, before placing it in a hot oven and feeling that crispy golden shell break with the first bite to reveal the chewy, holey structure underneath. Oh my, I’m salivating. My advice for people to start making bread is to not be intimated by the sourdough bakers out there but start with a simple humble focaccia. This bread requires little kneading, just patience and a lot of love.
Enriched doughs take a little more kneading but are delicious for a softer crumb and cakier texture - enriching with sugar, butter and eggs is what lends to sweet doughs, like cinnamon rolls. My mum's recipe for halloumi olive loaf can be found here - a beautiful crumbly bread with dried mint and salty flavour.
My recipe for a traditional focaccia topped with sea salt, cherry tomatoes and rosemary can be found here, a very forgiving recipe which requires no fussy shaping. The recipe also has my favourite winter topping of fresh figs, rosemary and goats cheese.
Mum's halloumi and olive bread
If you’ve read this far you’re either hooked or have too much time on your hands (and I’m assuming you’re not intolerant to gluten), so let’s pretend it’s Bread Appreciation Day and bake a loaf of bread! And drop me a comment if you’re down for some bread yoga.