The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]

ananda's picture

ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]


ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]

9 nights of our Summer Holiday in August 2010


We drove a short distance along the South Coast of Crete from Chora Sfakion to Plakias, in our hire car; a VW Polo which we nicknamed "the Hot Box", on account of the air conditioning system being wholly inadequate to cope with temperatures hitting 40°C.   A further few km on, around a hilly area, and we thought we were nearly there....think again!   We hit one of those dreadful tracks which used to pass for a road, now considered so rough that the road signs have all been blanked out.   Unfortunately, we had no choice but to take it anyway.   Nearly an hour later, having travelled all of 6km, we had finished bouncing along the dusty road, avoiding potholes and rocks; we found our little idyll, and home for the next 9 nights.

The garden was shaded with palm, fig and orange trees.   There was a pergola in the middle of the garden with table and chairs, and a hammock beneath.   4 sun beds were laid out for us to manoeuvre around to maximum effect.   On the side of the house was a "cooking station", consisting of charcoal barbeque, and...wood-fired oven!   On the front of the house was a sheltered terrace with space to enjoy an evening meal, and a couple of laid-back ginger tabby cats, happy to sleep throughout the day, sandwiched around the 2 meals we were able to offer, as the owner had left goodly cat food supplies!




Inside the house was fine, although the mattress on the bed was rock solid compared to the usual comfort we enjoy.   We had temporary supplies to keep us in food for a couple of days, including a bag of flour, and a levain in need of a feeding frenzy.   It was Sunday afternoon, and I planned to bake Monday late morning.   We had a brief evening stroll to get our bearings, and gathered a load of wood ready to fire the oven.

I awoke early, so got up and made dough using the leaven I had brought with me from the UK, and fed 3 times the day before.   Kicking, but cool from a few hours in a lovely cold refrigerator!   What to make??

Well, the flour was carefully chosen, as Alison can read Greek ok.   The text on the bag revealed the flour to be of Cretan origin, although I figured it was a mainstream flour, rather than specialist.   A protein content of 11.2% [see label], made me confident I could make reasonably good bread with it, although the example recipe given on the bag suggested water should be added at 57%, which I thought was a trifle low for what I wanted to make.   But, I had no scale!   Given the detailed formula I usually prepare for baking, the guesswork I was about to indulge in seemed a little daunting.   My estimate for total hydration used in the formula would be just over 70% [total guess]. 


The dough was pretty wet, but I knew it would work up well.   Sure enough, after 15 minutes "air-kneading" [© Andrew Whitley], the dough was soft, but silky and wonderfully extensible.   I placed it on a kitchen surface brushed with olive oil, and covered it over.   So, better get that oven fired whilst giving the dough a sequence of "stretch and fold", and preparing garlic for a Roasted Garlic Foccacia.




I also decided to make a Ciabatta loaf, and a loaf with a swirl of Black Olive Paste through the middle.   The dough proved relatively rapidly compared to what I am used to in the UK.   Still, the wood I had gathered was tinder dry, so burnt straightaway...and HOT!   The main problem proved to be getting the oven to drop and settle ready to bake on.   The "Olive Swirl" bread was now in need of baking.   A quick scuffle of the oven, and I set the loaf in the oven, resting on the aluminium foil strip used for proving.   I covered the loaf with a large roasting pan lid, put the door in place on the oven, and left for 10 minutes to prepare to bake the other 2 loaves.   I then finished the first loaf without the lid, and it took colour beautifully.   Baking the other 2 loaves was very simple, and testament to good dough quality, guaranteed through careful product choice to match up to assumed flour characteristics.   This worked well, and we had a few days' supply of lovely breads for our lunches under the pergola.



On Tuesday we went off in the "Hot Box" to the nearest town, Spilli, some 25km over the mountains.   We came back with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and other supplies, including Ouzo, and another bag of the very same flour!   Over the entire time we spent at Anotlika, we didn't eat out once.   Yet we really did feast on fine food...which I cooked without wasting anything.   We lived quite simply, in many ways, and yet it seemed to cost so much money.   The £ to € conversion seemed always to work against us, and clearly the struggling Greek economy has hit food prices badly.   Still, we were on holiday, and loving every minute of it.


Back at the Beach House, we went swimming in a sea which became increasingly rough.   The weather stayed very hot throughout, so an afternoon swim became an essential feature of my day.   The beach was literally the other side of the road running past our house, so the trip into the sea was all of 25 metres.


The next bake was scheduled for Thursday 5th August.  I made a large boule, and also made a sweet dough which I flavoured with honey and cinnamon, and used both egg and olive oil to improve and condition the dough.   Last year during our stay at Finnix, we had been given bread at the local hotels and restaurants, which had been made to celebrate the Orthodox Festival "Metamorphosis".   The bread was made in the style of large boules, but it was sweet.   This year, the Priests had been much in evidence at the Old Phoenix Hotel where we stayed, but the actual festival fell on the 5th August.   So, my take on this bread did coincide with the festival itself; just for fun, neither of us have connections to the Orthodox religion.



Alison pronounced the breads to be as good as any of my breads she had eaten.   Of course, the context is of great importance too; being able to eat fresh bread just cooled, but straight from a wood-fired oven.   The cracks in the crust of the boule betray exactly how lovely the crust was on this bread.   Alison usually enjoys the heavy crumb texture of high rye doughs; feasting on this type of crusty bread at its peak was a novel experience, and she fully appreciated how special it was too!



After that I set 2 pans of vegetables to roast.   The pictures say it all.   I sun dried aubergines, peppers and courgettes before roasting them slowly in the falling oven for 3 hours.   Wow, these vegetables sustained several meals during the rest of the holiday!



We were shaken awake early on Sunday morning [8th August], by an earthquake out to sea, but very nearby at Gavdos.   The tremor was way below sea level but measuring 4.8, so we felt an obvious tremor beneath the house, which led to us rising from our bed somewhat earlier than originally planned.   See:

The holiday passed as we wanted it to.   Nothing had been planned in a way which interrupted our simple daily routines.   That had been the original purpose for going to this place.   Both of us had worked ourselves close to the limit by late July, and a break of this sort was essential for us to effect battery re-charge.

I did set about reading Stephen Kaplan's book on the renaissance of good bread in France.   It's a weighty tome, and I found I needed to take down a lot of notes as I read.   However, it's enjoyable to read, and the man's clearly passionate in a way I feel echoes my own approach to teaching.   There are some great references in the book too; I wish my French was better than it is!

Well, we really did not want to come home...of course.   The reality check kicked in on the last day, when we had to drive back to Heraklion and submit to the horrors of passing through a wholly inadequate airport as a holidaymaker amongst many, many others.   Three flights back to the UK, all within half an hour of each other, all checking in the same desk....hell on earth.   The flight arrived back in Newcastle at 10pm, and less than 12 hours later, I was back at work, excitedly putting in place the fabric which will become a Level 3 ["A" Level equivalent] Bakery course to sit alongside the other programmes I already run.   Quite a coup, but I'd have liked a longer holiday, of course!

With regard to Greek bread, I had only limited opportunity to explore the local offerings.   We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel in Heraklion on the first night.   The breakfast offer the next morning seemed outrageously extravagant to Alison and me!   We enjoyed muesli and lovely stewed prunes with yoghurt and honey, then had scrambled eggs with some rye bread we could slice off.   Everybody else seemed to be tucking into the fluffy white enriched breads and rolls to support vast amounts of bacon and sausage.   This frequently ran to seconds, before a final return to gather up indulgent Greek pastries.   The rye breads were ok, but I'm sure they were made from a "pre-mix", straight out of a bag with a Bakels, or IREKS name attached; just add water and yeast.   The bread at the Old Phoenix Hotel is always good; it comes from nearby Chora Sfakion, and is made as large white boules of clearly beautifully fermented bread.   We had a visit to Rethimnon on the way back but had no time to investigate the one bakery recommended in the Rough Guides for its rye breads.   The restaurant where we enjoyed a gorgeous lunch did put out very simple, but tasty homemade white and wholemeal slices of bread with a tapenade, and a beetroot and yoghurt dip...everything clearly homemade: yummy!

Best wishes to all



wally's picture

Andy, thanks so much for sharing your and Alison's holiday with us.  I am completely envious, of course!  Your ciabatta and other breads look delicious as do the veggies you were cooking in the wfo.  They (wfo's) are truly wonderful and the crust and texture of breads coming out of them are just unlike anything I've seen achieved in a commercial gas oven.  In this sense at least, modern baking has probably taken a step back from what was routinely accomplished in wood burning ovens traditionally.

And then to top it off, ouzo!  Many years ago I used it as a mouthwash when hanging out in Cyprus.  Today it would more likely be a libation enjoyed on a wonderful beach in Crete!

Good to have you back, although from the looks of the pictures, you wouldn't have minded staying a couple more months.



ehanner's picture

Good to see you back safe and sound. It looks like you and Allison had a marvelous time. Great you were able to make your own meals with local sources.

Welcome home my friend.



Franko's picture

Well Andy that was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting post. I got a kick out of seeing you peering into that oven looking like you just walked up from the beach. Clearly a man in his element! Wouldn't it be nice if we could all do a little more of our baking al fresco style than what we're normally accustomed to? The bread you made looks so good along with the roasted peppers , zucchini and eggplant, it's obvious you and Alison didn't suffer for lack of great food. But I know exactly what you mean about vacations being too short..they always are for me as well. 

As usual, a great post. Loved it.

All the best,


LindyD's picture

Sounds like you had a very refreshing holiday, Andy - except for the flights back, of course.  It's never as much fun returning home.

Thanks for sharing your photos and especially the wonderful colorful foods you made in your idyllic surroundings.

You had certainly earned the time away!

Franchiello's picture

It looks like you two had a wonderful time (and some absolutely delicious meals!!).  I have to agree, the getting there and the going home are the two parts of a vacation I've never enjoyed!!  I think it's great that you were able to find such a nice little place to stay, complete with a WFO and tabby cats!!

Mebake's picture

Nice vacation Andy! It is tough to work with a foreign flour, New oven, and a foreign country!

Nice breads!

Yerffej's picture


Next year let us know of your holiday plans BEFORE the holiday and I can guarantee you will never dine alone.


ananda's picture

Many thanks for all your generous responses to our holiday post.

To Daisy_A, thank you for your support on all levels.   I really must investigate the work of Jan Hedh; I'm aware I'm missing out.

Larry, you are so right about the wood-fired oven.   It's nothing to do with wood smoke aromas in the bread, or any other myth.   It's quite simple: baking in a masonry structure of solid and very slowly declining, yet gentle heat, largely conduction, makes for unique breads when baked on the hearth.   There is nothing to beat it, and Alison's sudden conversion to crusty bread, when devouring it just cooled, is testament to this.   We don't drink Ouzo at seems out of place here in the cold;   something about it as an aperitif as the sun is going down on a stonking hot day....with a stack of ice.   Brings me to your Old Fashioned!   I'm going to post on your rye mash thread shortly, ok?   Meantime, I'll just hang it in front of all you Fresh Loafers in the US that I am deeply jealous that you can enjoy the fabulous Mad Men right now, whilst Alison and I have to hang on for Season 4 until early 2011!!!   Ahhh!

Eric, thank you for your welcome home.   Your rye post before I left was inspirational; you have had a profound influence on my total enjoyment at being part of the TFL community.   I hope my post assures you that I achieved the right balance in preparing lovely food for us both without over-planning and over-ambitious bakery projects as is my usual wont.

Franko, it's so good to hear from you as a fellow professional baker.   We both know what it can really be like at the sharp end; but how special is it to be able to spend holiday time like this making simple food, from local ingredients and using traditional cooking methods with no pressure whatsoever?   Joyful!

LindyD and Franchiello; my Dad always used to say he was "ready for coming home" [you should imagine that delivered in a very dry Yorkshire accent if you are familiar with the way us folk from the North of England speak!?] at the end of every holiday I can remember him going on.   We are so not alike, although I do have a Noerthern accent!!   Sadly, they do end, and I'll be back working hard to drive forward bakery education provision very soon, and, hopefully continuing to thrive and enjoy it.

Khalid, I know what you are saying.   But I felt so at home and comfortable with ingredients and oven.   I think that comes from lots of experience over the years.   One thing that was weird was not being able to weigh anything, or take any temperature readings.   I will never use volume measurements, I think I did a much better job, just guessing!

Jeff, you must have missed my post warning I was on my way to Crete; sorry about that.   I did announce my plans, and Eric, quite rightly, cautioned against trying to overdo it.   You'll just have to be quicker off the mark next time!   Great to hear from you.

Also, thank you to those who have sent personal messages of support around this time too.   It is so good to hear from so many as I keep a smile on my face in spite of British Summer dying the usual premature death...ho hum!

Thanks again


SylviaH's picture

Thank you for sharing your vacation and experiences.  It looks like you had fun with the wfo baking.  Your breads look beautiful.  I'm always curious to the type of wood was burned and did you get to try 'fire' roasted veggies or pizza?  Fire roasting does mess up your pans unless you use iron or cover them in foil...way to heavy to pack an iron skillet!


ananda's picture


Yes, I remember now that you and Larry posted with your recommendations as to what to make using the wood-fired oven, before I went away.

In the end I adopted cooking tactics which were more akin to Eric's counsel.   I actually spent very little time cooking and baking, and lots of time chilling.

The vegetables were cooked very slowly in olive oil on the cooler oven, once the breads had been baked.

This was a trick I learnt when I first went to Greece back in 1992.   We found an excellent restaurant on Skopelos which was owned by a woman who was half-French, half-Greek.   She ran her restaurant in Skopelos Town over the summer, then had a restaurant in Paris which she ran the rest of the year.   She taught me how to make the Greek dish "Briam", which is made by slowly roasting vegetables such as aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes for a long period of time in olive oil.   You can add feta cheese and olives too.   It really is one of my favourite dishes of all time, especially with brown rice.

We must have had at least 4 meals out of these roasted vegetables.

You know, in the end, I've always favoured relatively plain beads to dip and enjoy WITH other food, rather than speciality and complex stuff.   Fougasse would have been great...but!   It was soo hot, and the bread did dry out really quickly.

I kept it wrapped in linen, inside a plastic bag, and that really helped.   So too, using sour dough, and plenty hydration.

Above all, we wasted nothing at all!   True peasants, and proud to be thus!

The wood: we gathered it from the beach and roadside.   Drift wood and trees which had given up on dryness of late.   As I said; tinder dry.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  I feel like I had a mini holiday myself only without the heat.  Each time you read your recap, you can drift away... and smell the heat and the oven.  Hear the ice shift in your glass and feel the beaches sea spray in your face.  (Helps to have a mister pointed at you.)   :)

I'm heading to Dresden next week.  Playing tourist, never been there before.  Should be interesting.


ananda's picture

Hi Mini,

thanks for commenting, of course, and yes, it was pretty hot!

An increasing breeze seemed to blow up and the sea was powerful.

A good swim seemed essential; nigh on 40*C, so, hot, hot, hot!

BUT, we'd go back tomorrow.   UK climate is rubbish; how say you all?

Enjoy your holiday in Dresden

Best wishes


lyn lowenstein's picture
lyn lowenstein

Hi Andy

Thanks again for sharing your ideas and pointers and your blog. I realise now you are in the UK as well and not even that far from us!  I am sure I have heard of the bread and roses bakery!  Great name btw... I didn't knowingly eat any rye breads in Crete, but maybe the starter he gave me which he said was dark flour, is in fact rye. It would help explain why it still smells quite good even though I have yet to refresh it.  We are in South West Scotland - have a small home based bakery with a wood fired oven.   Been going for 4 years, but only bake once a week and try to do a bit of everything so still learning all the time! I will keep you posted on my durum sourdough explorations..

ananda's picture

Hi Lyn,

Nice little operation you have, love the van!

I'm in Edinburgh tomorrow at Cafe St. Honore for Real Bread social BATCH since becoming Real Bread Campaign Ambassador recently.

I had always wanted to call my bakery Bread and Roses after reading all about the original use of the political slogan and the subsequent poem; it just seemed to fit what I wanted to do.

I think it may well be rye actually, probably not wholemeal rye.   European traditions would describe rye bread as "dark", especially high % rye.   I use a fair bit of Light Rye, milled to specification of Type 997 [German system], so ash content 0.997%.   

I'll reply to the rest on your post about the durum ok?

Come and visit us in Alnwick sometime if you like, you would be very welcome.

Best wishes