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Notes on Chickpea Leavened-Bread
Here are my Cooking Notes on each Phase of the Process:

The Chickpeas:
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.


The Flour:
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.


The Kneading:
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 tearing.


The Rising:
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.


The Baking:
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 degrees F.


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 olive oil.


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.

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