Buy your chickpeas at a health food store. Since you'll be fermenting
them, you'll want to be sure that they weren't treated with fungicides.
My first problem was reducing the chickpeas to a gritty state. Unsoaked,
they wouldn't budge in a food processor and when I tried to smash them
with a stone pestle, two out of three went flying across the kitchen.
I ended up using my electric "mini- chopper." Or you
can soak them for 30 minutes, then crush them in a food processor.
Either way they should be smashed into pieces about the size of small
grains of rice.
Constant Heat For The Fermentation:
My next problem was to find a way to maintain the proper temperature
at which to cultivate the chickpeas so they would ferment and create
the proper froth. Victoria uses not only the froth and liquid but also
the chickpeas in her recipe.
Recalling the Kol brothers' admonition that the most important step
in the process was to maintain a constant temperature for proper fermentation,
I decided to employ an electric heating pad, which worked very well.
Some Greek cookbook authors suggest placing the mixture in a 100-degree
oven for 6 to 7 hours or until it ferments. But often the chickpeas,
if not fresh, take up to 1 day to ferment.
After much trial and error, I was able to simulate Cretan Country
Yellow Flour (kitrino) with a combination of durum flour, barley and
unbleached white flour, thereby obtaining the golden color and unique
texture I so admired.
Making the Sponge:
I used the food processor fitted with a metal blade to make a
sponge with the fermented chickpeas, a cup of durum flour and some aromatic
brew made with bay leaves and cinnamon to encourage fermentation.
I then allowed the sponge to bubble in a bowl within the folds
of an electric heating pad for 2 hours.
This dough is easily made in a heavy duty mixer with some modifications.
The sponge, remaining flours, and sugar are kneaded until the dough
is smooth and stiff, 5 minutes. Then I simulate the "knuckling-in
technique" with more brew while working in some low-gluten barley
flour, which doesn't need to be fully kneaded. The dough is ready
when it is firm but spongy and a small piece can be stretched without
Shape the loaves, slash deeply with a razor sharp knife at 1-inch
intervals, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest in warm place
until the dough is swollen by one-third, 2 hours. For rusks, use a sharp
edged spatula to divide the loaf into 8 equal slices and reassemble
in the pan.
Since you won't see much of a rise prior to baking placing the bread
in the oven is pretty much an act of faith.
Preheat a baking stone for at least 45 minutes. Place a shallow
oven tray on the floor of the oven while it is heating. Just before
placing the bread in the oven, throw a handful of ice cubes onto the
tray to create steam. Bake the breads until well browned, turning the
pan around to ensure even baking. There are two ways to check for doneness:
the base will sound hollow when tapped, or insert an instant-read thermometer
in the center of the loaf. The bread is baked when it registers 220
Serving the Bread:
The bread is fully baked. It looks good and smells terrific. Wrap in
a kitchen towel to keep the crust soft.
After I felt I pretty much accomplished a good tasting bread I brought
a sample to Christoforos Veneris, a chef from Crete whose father had
been a baker. He took one look at its smooth sides and said: "You
killed it! The reason you must slice the bread before it is allowed
to rise, is to make it easier to pull it apart after baking."
Traditionally, the bread is torn into chunks while still warm, then
topped with a little olive oil or butter. It is even better after
it has mellowed about five hours, then toasted lightly and dipped in
Happily this is a bread you can practice on with good results
since you need not discard your mistakes. Even when your first
efforts aren't perfect, you can still turn them into good- tasting rusks.