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Greek Islands Pizza Bread (Λαδένια)

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Prep: 1 hour // Bake: 1 hour

Greek pizza bread ladenia recipe
 

What is it?

It’s a thick pizza bread mostly made in traditional bakeries (or yiayias –grandmas- baked in traditional wood-fired ovens) of the Aegean islands. It has a moreish, herby bread flavour (think something like focaccia) and is topped with the simplest but most flavoursome of Greek ingredients. The traditional one is pretty basic and simple, topped just with onions, tomatoes and oregano. This version is enhanced with more toppings like peppers (usually these incredibly aromatic long shaped with pointy ends), olives and feta cheese too.


Origins

It gets its name, ‘Ladenia’, from the olive oil used for the preparation and whose flavour dominates. According to the legend, it appeared in the Greek islands around the medieval times of the mighty Venetian Sea Kingdom, perhaps merely a local bread that was evolved with the addition of cheese and tomato by the Venetians. It originates from the small island of Kimolos, but I remember me eating it in the nearby island of Milos so next time you visit the beautiful islands of Milos and Kimolos you know what to ask for.


Recipe

Now, I’ve seen and tried several different recipes around (mainly playing around with the dough consistency and flavour as the toppings are pretty much standard) and came up with my version right here. I'm also taking inspiration from a great book about Greek pies, called “Pites apo Heri” (Handmade Pies) for lots of things I bake. Unfortunately, for my non-Greek audience, the book is only published in Greek and you can only buy it in bookshops in Greece. But rest assured you will get to see a lot of bakes from this book so stay tuned and subscribe to my newsletter. My adaptations to recipes are mostly to introducing tips I know and learnt from my family bakes but also reducing (or even replacing) the “not so healthy” factors with ingredients I think work better for my family’s healthy diet.


Equipment

1 large baking pan (32-34cm diameter, or bake 2 breads in smaller 20-23cm pans) with high sides (like cake pans) as the bread will rise to double its size during bake.

2 mixing bowls

A large sieve


Kids Activity

As usual, toddlers love to be involved in household and cooking. My 2-year-old was equally excited shifting the flours through the sieve and kneading the dough as well to sweeping his mess up straight after!




Ingredients

Dough:

  • 500g Strong Flour for bread

  • 200g Cornmeal (or fine polenta)

  • 3 tsp dry yeast

  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil

  • 350g lukewarm water

  • 2 tsp dried oregano (thyme or rosemary is nice too)

  • Pinch of salt

Topping:

  • 5-6 ripe tomatoes

  • 1 Onion

  • 100g Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced – optional-

  • 1 green pepper (try finding these aromatic long shaped with pointy ends – otherwise bell peppers work fine too)

  • 200g Feta cheese – optional- (This one is my favourite)

  • 2 tsp dried oregano (or 1/1 with thyme)

  • 60ml Extra virgin olive oil

  • Some ground pepper

Substitutes

Polenta (Cornmeal) -> any other flour with slight taste will add some depth to the flavour. Cornmeal is traditionally used in Greece not only for colour but flavour too.

Instruction

  • Prepare the dough: In a big bowl mix half of the water with the yeast (add a spoonful or honey too if you don’t mind the calories) until blended. Then shift the flours (through a fine sieve), pinch of salt, oregano, the olive oil and the rest of the water and work it with an electric hand mixer in slow motion (or use your hands instead) until a dough is formed. Sieving the flours will allow them to “breathe” and give your bread volume and fluffiness.

  • Remove the dough from the bowl and continue kneading on a bench for another 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Or assign this task to your toddler while you take a breath ;-)

  • Put it back in the bowl, cover with cling film and let it rise in room temperature for 1 hour (it will almost double in size).

  • While the dough is rising, cut the onion in thin slices and tomatoes in cubes (see at this post how I cut the tomato flesh out). If using the whole tomato (not just flesh), squeeze it with your hands (or in a tea towel) to reduce the liquids and avoid soggy bread. Slice the rest of your ingredients and crumble your feta cheese (if using).

  • When the dough is ready, preheat the oven (200c or 180c fan) and rub the bottom of your baking pan with half of the topping olive oil (around 30-40ml / 1.5 tbsp). Then spread the dough into the pan with your hands. Lightly press with your fingers on top to flatten (it should be around 1/2 inch thick). Rub any surfacing excess oil with your hand.

  • Sprinkle 1 tsp oregano (or thyme) and top the dough with onions, then as many tomatoes as you can (leave no visible part of the dough), the peppers and olives (if using), season with salt, and then the crumbled feta (omit salt if using feta). Season with some pepper, add the rest of oregano and a drizzle of olive oil and bake for around 1 hour.





Recommended Products

Below are my favourite authentic products I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links, please deactivate your ad-blocker :-)


Wooden Pizza Serving Board: I bought this Kitchen craft from Amazon which is perfect for pizzas, pitas, cakes and every round bake I do. I like its rustic looks which makes a perfectly handsome partner for my photography.


Kalamata Olives. When I lived in Greece (almost 35 years of my life), I never had the chance to try any other olive from any Meditteranean country. Reason being the abundance of olives in Greece. Even if you wanted to, there were no olives imports from another country. Come forward some years and I live in the UK where you can try olives from different countries. Well, after a long trial and error adventure with olives from all over the Mediterranean basin, I came down to the realisation that the most balanced, juiciest and fully flavoured olives are Kalamata and Halkidiki plus some types of Turkish olives that they come pickled with herbs and spices. It might be my personal taste and East Med developed palate but Kalamata is my nr.1 choice and worth every penny. Below are some great Greek products (exported) that I appreciate and recommend:












Electric Hand mixer: If you bake a lot, it makes sense to invest in an electric hand mixer. Especially if you have kids; you'll find out how much bake they want to consume be it cookies, cakes, muffins or bread, and how much they enjoy getting involved in the process. A hand mixer is inexpensive and will last for years. When it comes to quality I always aim high, so my nr.1 recommendation is Bosch. However, I've been lately using this VonShef brand which turned surprisingly good for my recipes and for its lower price. I recommend these 2 models which not only are small and lightweight (even toddlers can handle) and store easily but, unlike all others, they also come with dough hooks and whisk balloon that makes them a great weapon for many different uses in your kitchen.










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