Aglaia Kremezi's Foods of the Greek Islands features a flavorful recipe for ladokouloura, which I adapted here. Kremezi's recipe is fairly simple enough (requiring the dough to merely make a few turns in the food processor followed by a little kneading by hand), but I wanted to simplify things even further. So I simply mixed all the ingredients in a large bowl, didn't knead at all and kept my fingers crossed.
The results ... crispy, savory bread rings perfect for dipping, munching and enjoying any which way you like. Kremezi's original recipe calls for using water infused with cinnamon and cloves (I used only cinnamon) and then adding some ground mastic (mastiha) and anise seeds (glykaniso) to the dough. The licorice-like flavor imparted by both the mastic and anise are a great combination. And I must say that these ladokouloura tasted even better two days after their initial baking, when their flavor mellowed out and provided for the perfect accompaniment to a tangy and fresh olive tapenade.
I'm sending these lovely ladokouloura to Ivy of Kopiaste who is hosting this month's Think Spice event (created by Sunita of Sunita's World) highlighting the ever-magical mastic gum, a unique ingredient produced only by trees on the Greek island of Chios. Please visit Ivy's site for more intriguing information on mastic gum and remember you have until Feb. 28th to submit your dish for this event, so ... Think Spice!
Ladokouloura me Mastiha kai Glykaniso--
Savory Bread Rings with Mastic and Anise
(Adapted from a recipe in Aglaia Kremezi's Foods of the Greek Islands)
Makes 32 rings
2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely ground
1 tablespoon mastic
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup olive oil
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the mastic and salt into a fine powder; set aside.
In a small saucepan bring the water to boil along with the cinnamon sticks. Boil for five minutes until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups liquid. Let cool slightly and discard the cinnamon sticks.
Combine the water, yeast, flour, oil, anise and mastic mixture in a large bowl and stir until the mixture resembles a unified, smooth dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 2 hours, until doubled.
Oil two large baking sheets. Divide the dough into 4 sections. Working with one section at a time, tear each into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope then shape into a ring. Press the ends together well to seal (use a bit of water as a sealant if necessary). Arrange on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart and let rise for another 30 minutes.
About 20 minutes before baking, heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the rings for 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 20 to 30 minutes more. Remove rings from baking sheets and arrange directly on your oven's middle rack, reducing the oven temperature to 175 degrees. Bake until bread rings are dry, about 2 hours. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to six months.
Pasta Elias--Olive Tapenade
2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine the olives, oil, garlic, vinegar and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients resemble a coarse mixture. Season with additional balsamic vinegar or pepper as necessary and serve with ladokouloura, crackers, toasted pita or use as a spread n your favorite sandwich.