Wheat and Barley, or Emmer Bread with Spices

My everyday bread, inspired from traditional Greek island recipes. See at the end my recent variation with heirloom Emmer (Farro, or Dicoccum Tricoccum) whole-wheat flour from Trinity Farm in Thessaly, Central Greece. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 5-6 days, gradually taking out pieces to make laganes, stuffed breads, or lachmacun –topped with Spicy Ground Meat, etc.


Yields 2 medium loaves, or 2 flat laganes

2 cups fine semolina or pasta flour
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 teaspoons mixed ground coriander seeds, caraway and mahlep –about 2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp ground mahlep, 1 teaspoons caraway seeds (see NOTE)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
2 cups ripe sourdough starter (see the last phase of the starter recipe) or 1 1/2  tablespoons instant dry yeast
3 ½ or more cups spring water (non chlorinated)
2 tablespoons milk and 2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Place flours, yeast (if using) and spices in a large bowl and mix well with a spatula. Make a well in the center and add the sourdough starter (if using) and 3 1/2 cups water. Use the spatula to incorporate the liquid. With a hand-held mixer fitted with dough hooks, or in a standing mixer work the mixture for 1-2 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes. Work again with the hand-held mixer for 5 minutes or more, occasionally stopping to turn over the dough with a large spatula. The dough should still be wet and sticky, but should start to come off the sides of the bowl. If too dry, add a little water, if too wet add a few tablespoons all purpose flour.

Flour the working surface and turn out the dough. Dust your hands and the dough with very little flour and knead –folding, pushing, turning and folding again— for 6 minutes or more, until you get a dough that is smooth, elastic and very slightly sticky to the touch.

Lightly oil a large transparent or semi-transparent bowl, as well as a piece of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the oiled bowl. Trace a line on the outside of the bowl to monitor the dough’s expansion. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise until double its original volume: 1 1/2 -2 hours or more if you have used dry yeast, and up to 8-10 hours if you made the dough with sourdough.

(When the dough has expanded to about 1 1/2 times its size and you have used dry yeast,  you may transfer the bowl with the dough to the refrigerator, and leave it overnight and up to 24 hours. It will continue to rise slowly).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

At this point you NEED cut off a fist-size piece of dough, flatten it slightly, sprinkle with flour, wrap in parchment paper, seal in a zip log bag and keep in the refrigerator or freeze. You will use it for your next bread dough.

Shape the dough into two loaves, an 8-x-11-inch oval or an 8-inch round, or make laganes (flatish breads) by pushing the dough with wet fingers making dimples all over the surface. Place in baking dishes lined with parchment paper, cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour (less if you used dry yeast). The breads will almost double.


If you like, brush the surface of the breads with milk, and sprinkle with the sesame or any other seeds.

At least 20 minutes before baking, place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450°F.

Carefully take out the hot baking sheet, and lifting the parchment papers with the breads, slide them on the hot pan. With a wet baker’s razor, or with a pair of kitchen scissors make 3 diagonal cuts on the surface of each loaf.   Sprinkle with water from a plant sprinkler and bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling quickly into the oven with water 3 more times. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Do the same (sprinkle 3 times) for flat breads, but reduce the heat immediately after you put them in the oven.

Bake the loaves for 45 minutes more  –the flat breads only for about 25 more minutes.

Wearing oven mitts and using a spatula, remove the breads from pan and place directly on the oven rack. Bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom. A meat thermometer inserted in the center of the bread should read 200-210°F.

Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.


My spice blend for the bread includes mahlep, which you may omit, if you find it too exotic.


MAHLEP is the small seeds of a wild cherry, the size of apple seeds. It gives a sweet and smoky aroma to breads and other baked goods. The grains should be the color of café au lait; dark brown grains indicate that the spice is old and probably stale. It is sold in Middle Eastern stores. Buy whole grains and keep in sealed jars in the freezer. Grind small quantities, as needed.


Bread with Heirloom, whole grain Emmer flour (farro or Dicoccum Tricoccum)

3 cups whole wheat Emmer flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cups bread flour (high-gluten)
2 teaspoons salt, yeast, spices and water as above

Make the dough as described above, let rise, shape as one loaf or as laganes etc. as in the detailed previous recipe.




3 thoughts on “Wheat and Barley, or Emmer Bread with Spices

  1. Wow! The spices give this bread a wonderful, mysterious taste. My kids said it had a fruity taste, almost like dried apricot. I wonder if that was the Mahlep? It was delicious for breakfast toasted and drizzled with olive oil. Thanks for this delicious recipe.

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