A visit to a Wood-Fired Bakery in Kefalonia

Although not all aspects of our family vacations are oriented around baking – I feel that it is important to try the local bread and other bakery products where I visit.  Last year, in early June 2015, while on a family visit to Kefalonia, I had been asking around about whether there were any wood-fired bakeries on the island.  Indeed there was – I was told of an old wood-fired bakery in Agia Efimia, which is a little port town on the Eastern seaboard of Kefalonia, facing out toward the Southernmost tip of Ithaca.  Being popular with sailboat tourists, without port industry, the town may have lost some of its individual character in adapting to the needs of a homogenous class of middle-class European consumers, which differentiates it negatively from more residential Ionian ports of call.

However, the historic wood-fired bakery is Agia Efimia’s saving grace – making our two hour drive from the South coast well worth the effort. We arrived in the mid-afternoon, toward the end of a typical long day in the bakery. The husband and wife bakers were readying the bakery for the following day, in heat of around 30ºC, and yet still made the time for me to take a look inside the cavernous oven – with a pretty cast iron exterior.

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The wood-fired bakery in Agia Efimia (June 6, 2015)

A couple of notable features were the height of this old oven was low even for the current generation of bakers, it was lit by an electric lamp during baking observation, and has a simple ash grate to dispose of the products of combustion. The loaves, one of which is pictured below, appear to be baked in close proximity – and are of a sufficient quality that little variation in bread product are required. The oven appeared to be fired with one barrow of wood per day, which in daily use may be all that is required to reach heat.

I had noted in other Kefalonia towns bakers mentioning the use of wood, oil and gas to fire ovens had ceased, for various reasons – including Health & Safety or government directives.  Let’s hope this wood-fired bakery continues the tradition – as its the only reason I will return to Agia Efimia!  For those visiting Kefalonia, there is also a wood-fired pizzeria on the seafront at Poros, being Bello Pizza – purveyors of the finest pizza on the island in the opinion of a food fascist who has eaten there!

 

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About jonnyr9

I'm an enthusiastic amateur "scientific" cook and baker, and former scientist, and I like to bring scientific thinking to my cooking: thinking about what might be happening at a chemical or biological level during food preparation (including its growth, and preservation), and applying exact methods of mass and volume to core recipes, before varying them. I use an accurate weighing scale (to 0.1g). I like growing my own herbs, constructing my own raised beds, and constructing my own wood-fired pizza oven. I bring a certain level of OCD to the kitchen, and therefore my baking includes sourdough, and my pizza-making includes "reference" to the protected specifications for true pizza. If I can source "the right" ingredients for a dish, I will at almost any length (within reason) - before I find an equivalent in-country supplier. Therefore - if you've never eaten Lancashire cheese bought at Bury market near Manchester - you've never eaten Lancashire cheese. I'm going to try to include links to the same products I use in my blog, so my readers don't end up using sub-standard alternatives - "experimental replication" is key to scientific cooking. I was born in the North of England, but I live in the South, though I would prefer to live on an island in the Ionian Sea.
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