Monday, 25 May 2015

Bread Stories 2

 Bread Stories 2

Bread (Psomi) from Lemnos

When we first came to live on the island we so much loved having fresh warm bread for breakfast that at half past seven Takis would drive off to get a loaf or two for the day. Often we would slice what we did not eat and freeze it so that when next toasted it tasted fresh. But it still meant that we tended to end up with a lot of bread and I had to find other ways of using it, like bread-and-butter pudding, or rissoles made with mince and breadcrumbs.

 Lemnos Flour

Description: Pure yellow flour traditionally ground from 100% Lemnos hard wheat

I buy Lemnian flour form our local grocer. It is said to be ideal for bread, traditional Greek fillo dough, pizza dough, pasta, dumplings and frying batter. And, because it is without additives and also a hard wheat flour that has a low GI rating, it is better than most flours for diabetics.

Lemnian wheat was famous in Classical Greek times supplying Athens and in Byzantine times supplying Constantinople. But does it exist today? How much of local wheat is made from those ancient grains? And anyway, do the local bakers use local flour?

I’ve spent some time trying to research these questions BUT, when I tried to find out more about Lemnian flour from local bakers and housewives I heard so many conflicting stories.

Was it true that one baker made 80% of his bread with local flour?

Or, was it true as a neighbour said that the island produces very little flour today, and he’s seen loads of wheat delivered from the mainland?

Was it true that one particular baker had a hidden field, where he’d sown some Byzantine seed he’d obtained from a priest on Mount Athos?

Or perhaps all the old grains had been eliminated by decree of the unions who wanted everyone to buy from allocated seed distributors.

So I think that to some extent Lemnos Wheat and Lemnos Flour remains a bit of a mystery, and myth. Probably there is some wheat produced on the island but nowhere near as much as needed to make all the loaves that are made. And the grains that are used would not be the same as the original and famous wheat grains. Maybe, somewhere, in some archive store they have some but…..

 Making Bread the Old Way
In a book of Lemnian recipes written by a friend of mine I read that women baked bread in their households once a week. They’d use either plain wheat flour or a mixture of wheat and barley flour. The baking was carried out in traditional ovens, or furnos. I’m sure that the grandmothers of today’s Lemnians had to use local flour, as it would have been difficult for them to get flour from other places during the wars.

As by friend Ourania wrote in her cook book,

‘By tradition, they made their own live yeast from the holy water and basil plant the parish priest handed out on the 14th September, when the Orthodox Church honours The Holy Cross.’

Though few local households still make their own bread you can still from several local bakers bread made on the island.

Local Bakers

For a small town there are a lot or bakers. And they do make wonderful fresh bread, especially compared with that bought in supermarkets.


I’m happy to make the 15 minute walk to buy Mr. Boulotis small heavy dark rye bread loaves called Olikis Alesseos or whole grain rye. I find I can eat a small amount of this even though a diabetic. This baker told me his bakery was begun by his grandfather in 1923 and he is now handing it on to his son.

 I also love his current buns, sliced and toasted. (only one slice for me)


Takis likes to buy flat bread from this shop called Zapata. It is down by the port so we only visit this shop now and then.

We also go here to buy chocolates from Salonika. These have crystallised fruit and marzipan in them.


This bakery is very well known on the island and there are Chrisafis shops in nearly every village. It was originally established by a woman and sells a variety of dairy and bakery products. We go to this shop to buy a small sour dough loaf for Takis and also Koulourakia, a round bread ring covered with sesame seeds. And now and then we buy a dark chocolate with walnuts here called Karioka.



I like the fresh biscuits I bought at this bakery, though it is a bakery we don’t often visit as it is in another part of town.

Other Local Flour Products


In stores you can also buy a number of other wheat based traditional dishes.


Wheat mixed with hot ewe’s milk and then dried in the sun and passed through thick sieves. This was used to make soups.


This is a kind of pasta that is either cooked on its own and garnished with cheese or stewed with meat and or with vegetables.


Fillo Pastry

These are very thin pastry sheets, which traditionally in Lemnos are then combined with sesame seeds, almonds and honey to make ‘samsathes’.


Using local flour to make our own pasta products


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