Paximadia, dry barley rusks from Crete (and elsewhere in the Greek islands), are something I made a few months ago. That is, I was going to post on them, but the overwhelming production of berries from the garden in the peak summer months put it squarely on the back burner. But, by now I can tell you’re silently asking, what does paximadia have to do with the title of this post?
To answer that question: paximadia (the plural form of paximadi) is a general name for savoury dry rusks – twice cooked, similar to biscotti. They are primarily made with barley flour, but variations are made with a combination of barley and wheat or simply whole wheat alone. They can also appear in different shapes – thick slices cut from loaves, round flattened and sliced bun-like, circular (koulouri like, also sliced horizontally), etc. It is the slightly domed sliced dry bun shape which is called dakos (or sometimes transliterated as dacos), meaning turtle shell which it resembles. The two halves of these “shells” are often used as trenchers for juicy vegetables and other herbed and cheesy toppings as part of the mezze (or starter) platter. They are also excellent, albeit crunchy, on their own.
For those of you who are interested, there is an exceptional article on paximadia in Aglaia Kremezi’s blog called PAXIMADIA: barley biscuits’ past and present. Incidentally, she also touches on the origin of the “Mediterranean Diet”, which was based on a post-WWII study of the dietary habits of seven Mediterranean countries. A highly recommended read!
Dakos (Cretan Barley Rusk)
This is modified from a recipe in Aglaia Kremezi’s The Mediterranean Pantry (see my review) and comes as close to the dakos I get in the bakery on Crete.
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon anise seeds
- 400ml warm water
- 2 Tablespoons (24g) active dried yeast
- 1 Tablespoon (10g) sea salt
- 450g plain (all purpose) flour
- 90g whole wheat flour
- 300g whole barley flour
- 100ml olive oil
- 100ml dry red wine
Heat 100ml of the water (reserving the remainder 300ml) and bring to a boil. Pour the hot water over the anise seed in a bowl. Let it steep until cools to tepid and then strain. Discard the seeds, but keep the liquid. Dissolve the honey in this anise flavoured liquid.
In a large mixing bowl attached to a mixer with a dough hook, add the three different types of flour, the salt and yeast. Pour in the honeyed water, the oil and wine. Mix and then add the reserved 300ml of warm water. Mix slightly and stop the mixer so the flour can hydrate. After a few minutes, start the mixer again and process until a ball forms and wraps around the dough. hook. Remove the dough and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm.
Let it rise for about 1-1/2 hours (until doubled in volume).
Tip out the dough onto a floured cutting board. Cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a slightly flattened ball. Keeping them well spaced, place on lightly oiled baking sheets, cover loosely with clingfilm and let rise again for another 1-1/2 or 2 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Remove the clingfilm from the baking sheets and place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until lightly browned.
Let the dakos rolls cool for about 5 minutes on a rack while you reduce the oven temperature to 80 degrees C (175 degrees F).
Cut the rolls in half horizontally and lay the rolls, cut side up, directly on the oven rack and let them bake and harden for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours until completely dry. They may need more time, depending on the thickness of your rusks. Cool on rack. Store in a dry place. They say they keep for up to 6 months, but ours never last that long.
One of the most common ways of serving these round rusks is as a base for chopped juicy tomatoes spiked with crushed garlic and olive oil, and topped with crumbled feta, a sprinkling of oregano and another optional drizzle of olive oil. Sometimes the dakos is dipped in water prior to loading on the vegetables to partly soften the rusk. I don’t since the juices from the tomato and the olive oil are sufficient for the purpose.