Yet another recipe for paximadia? Yes, because in Greece the variety of these twice-baked sweet and savory rusks and biscuits is dizzying and I wish to provide you with a few of my favorites from the lot. I promise, I’ll take a break from the subject after today. (But I won’t promise that I won’t return to it again!)
This recipe from Diane Kochilas‘ excellent The Glorious Foods of Greece produces a paximadi (singular for paximadia) somewhere in between the two paximadia recipes I’ve posted so far: one for a basic barley rusk made with a yeasted dough, the other for a sweetened rusk (or, more appropriately, biscuit or cookie) made with a quick dough. Diane’s recipe calls for a yeasted dough, one that is sweeter than the basic barley rusk and is spiced up nicely with cinnamon, cloves, brandy and quite a lot of citrus.
Rusks like these are commonly baked along with bread and pites (savory, sometimes sweet pies) in the outdoor, wood-fired ovens of my friends and neighbors in the village the children and I call home part of each year. On those days, the air fills with an intoxicating mix of scents: olive wood burning, wild greens and touloumotiri (the mother of feta) melding within the layers of handmade pita dough, bread dough rising and baking, and the spice of these delicious paximadia.
Diane advises eating these with a little cheese and coffee. Yum. I concur.
Rusks with Raisins and Spices
- 3 pounds bread flour (about 12 cups), or more if necessary
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 envelope dry yeast
- 2 cups warm water, or more if necessary
- 1 ½ cups olive oil
- 1 cup strained fresh orange juice (I often add the grated zest from the orange)
- ½ cup brandy
- Juice and grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 4 cups golden raisins
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves together in a large bowl and sprinkle with the yeast. Make a well in the center. Add the warm water, olive oil, orange juice, brandy and lemon juice. Using a wooden spoon, fork, or your hand, work the flour into the liquid from the periphery of the well inward, until most of it has been incorporated. Knead in the bowl until smooth, adding more flour or water if necessary to make a pliant but silky dough. Add the lemon zest (and orange zest, if you’ve chosen to use it), raisins and walnuts and knead into the already formed dough until they are distributed evenly. Form into a large ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2-3 hours, until doubled.
Divide the dough into 4 equal balls and shape each into a loaf about 4 inches wide. Oil 2 baking sheets and place 2 loaves on each. Cover and let rise for another hour or two, unttil nearly doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry cutter, score the loaves into 1-inch-thick slices, being careful not to cut all the way down to the bottom of the loaf; the pieces shouldn’t separate. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on racks.
Turn the oven temperature down tot he lowest setting. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper and place the slices on the paper. Place in the oven and bake until the paximadia are completely dry and rock-hard, 3 to 12 hours, depending on your oven. Turn during the baking so both sides get some color. Remove from the oven, let cool, and store, either in cookie tins or in lint-free cotton sacks in a cool, dry place.
Makes about 3 dozen paximadia.
To soften these rusks, hold them briefly under running tap water.