Unless it’s mid-afternoon at high summer, when the heat of the day sends nearly everyone to the cool shelter of their homes, it is unusual to walk through the village and not receive an invitation to sip a cup of coffee, right there and then. No plan or date required. Even during this time of economic crisis, spontaneity and open-heartedness are at the essence of life in rural Greece. If you’re in the mood to visit, you do. If you’re not, “Telos pando,” it will happen another time.
Whether sipping coffee or something stronger, such as ouzo or wine, Greeks tend not to drink without something to nibble on (or eat without something to drink). Thus, a plate of goodies will invariably appear alongside those tiny cups of Greek coffee. Often the goodies are various types of paximadia, the twice-baked rusks (or, in this case, cookies) I’ve been blogging about for the past two weeks.
Traditional paximadia are usually made with barley flour and, because they are so hard, require softening in water or wine before eating. But today the word paximadia is used to describe to a dizzying variety of rusks and cookies, from the traditional barley rusk often used as a base in Dakos to the slightly sweet cookies my neighbors serve with coffee.
Here is a recipe for one take on the latter type of paximadia. Made with a quick dough, it is adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend, the powerhouse home cook, Diamando Xerakia, who refuses to feed her family or friends anything that isn’t made, grown or gathered by her own hands. Tomorrow I will post a recipe for another sweetened paximadia, made with a yeasted rather than a quick dough. From Diane Kochilas’ extraordinary tour de force of regional Greek cuisine, The Glorious Foods of Greece, it is spiked deliciously with cinnamon, cloves, brandy and lots of citrus.
- 8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp ground aniseed
- 2 ½ cups chopped walnuts
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp water
- ¼ cup sesame seeds, or more to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center, add the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, walnuts and aniseed and work into a smooth dough.
Divide the dough into two balls and then shape into loaves. Place the loaves on an oiled baking sheet, or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with the beaten egg yolk, sprinkle both sides with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool and then cut into slices. Return the slices to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the paximadia begin to color. Allow to cool completely. Kept in an airtight container, these paximadia will keep for up to one month.