Greek Black Barley Rings (Mavrokoulouria)

Total Time
50mins
Prep 20 mins
Cook 30 mins

Barley Rings remain one of the most unusual and renowned Greek breads. Traditional in Crete and the Southern Cyclades, they are the epitome of rural breads, they nourish, last, and feed through winter, keeping hearts strong. Barley rings are nutty, honest, truly down to earth. They stay crunchy even when soaked in liquid. They are the bread of choice for bread salad. They are marvelous crumbled in soup, and dunking in morning brew. Traditionally the rings are made with sourdough starter but this recipe uses yeast.

Ingredients Nutrition

Directions

  1. Mix together the yeast, sugar, 1/2 cup of the barley flour, and the warm water in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place until bubbly, 30 minutes.
  2. Add the 1/4 cup oil, remaining 3 cups barley flour, the salt, and the 1/2 cup water. Stir until you can gather the mixture into a sticky ball.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Coat the dough with oil, transfer to a bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it aside in a warm place until a bit spongy but not nearly doubled, 2 hours.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With your hands, press each piece out to form a flat oval about 12 inches long, 6 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. Fold in the long sides of each oval so that they overlap, forming a roll. Then pull the roll around, with the side seam on the inside, to form a ring. Squeeze the ends together and press any cracks closed.
  6. Place the rings on an ungreased baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rest until a little spongy again, 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  8. Brush the rings with water and bake until beginning to brown, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.
  9. When the rings have cooled, preheat the oven to 200°F.
  10. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the rings until dry all the way through, 7 hours (overnight is fine). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year. To use, soak the rings briefly in water, coffee, tea, or other liquid until just soft, about 5 minutes.
  11. NOTE: If stone ground barley flour is hard to find or time is short, commercially made barley rings can be purchased at any Greek specialty grocery store.
  12. In Greece, barley rings are made of just plain barley flour. Their height may be helped by the fact that the rings are folded over, but also the barley flour in Greece is different from that found in the United States; it is quite fibrous. Because of the flour differences, the barley rings in this recipe, though delicious, are lighter in color and shorter in stature than the native ones.
  13. Adventures In Greek Cooking.

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