The... poetics of baking!
I dare you to walk past Kostas' bakery at No 18 Eleftheriou Venizelou Street in Zakynthos town and manage not to give in to your sense of smell. Kostas' approach to baking is similar to that of an artist creating a rich tapestry of colour and sensations. He says, "bakery is the art that sweetens the sour moments of our life". Kostas is very mindful of his work being close to nature since all the ingredients he uses come from natural sources. He likens the poiesis of baking to that of a lover and the journey through the senses (smell, taste, touch, seeing and hearing). If you think Kostas' poetic language is just hot air wait till you experience some of his scrumptious creations. We visited Kostas' bakery 'To Paradosiako' (translating into 'Traditional') and asked him to show us a traditional Zakynthian recipe.
Kostas chose to show us his Paximadi recipe - a sesame and raisin soft and crumbly bake best enjoyed with Greek coffee or a little cognac. You can also enjoy it in the morning as part of your breakfast.
You can watch Kostas' recipe in the below video alternatively, scroll down to the step by step instructions.
Here is the recipe in 6 simple steps!
Get your ingredients ready: flour, wine, olive oil, raisins, anise, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, sesame seeds, orange juice, sugar
Zakynthian paksimadi ingredients
(Use mixer for this) Mix the olive oil with the sugar and blend until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Slowly introduce all the remaining ingredients except for the flour, sesame seeds and wine. Mix well.
Slowly add the flour little by little until ingredients are mixed evenly throughout. Make sure your dough remains supple and smooth. Slowly introduce the wine and continue to mix dough. Once thoroughly mixed leave dough to 'rest' for a few minutes.
Adding and mixing ingredients
Work dough on flat surface so that you get a supple ball of all the ingredients. Remember dough should remain supple and not become rubbery.
Kostas working on the dough
Roll out 'sticks' of dough and place in a paper-lined baking tray horizontally leaving a little gap between them.
Rolling sticks of dough
Carve dough every couple of inches apart to create little squares for easy slicing later on.
Zakynthian paksimadi recipe
Spray with clean water and sprinkle with sesame seeds until whole surface is evenly covered.
Sprinkling paksimadi with sesame seeds
Put in moderate pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour or until golden throughout.
Kostas showing off his Zakynthian paksimadi
Whilst waiting for the finished product Spyros and I had a... look around Kostas' bakery.
Ok! I admit it... we had a good old taste of everything... Here is a sample of Kostas' other pieces of... art.
Apart from working at his bakery Kostas supplies food for local celebrations, events, ceremonies and conferences as well as for orders on cruise ships and sailing boats. So whether you are a passer by or planning a longer stay on the island make sure you taste Kostas' unique selection of mouth-watering goodies. He tells as that his craftsmanship in baking has been passed down from his grandfather who was also a well known baker in the town. Kostas has a good 3000 recipes under his wing, that he does not really share, but is also continuously looking at creative ways in mixing the 'old' with the 'new'. Therefore there will always be something new for you to taste and discover on your visits. We are very thankful to Kostas Mouzakis for his enthusiasm, generosity and warmth throughout our visit, as well as his sharing his precious recipe with us. We look forward to returning to his bakery in order to experience more of his artistry in crafting little multi-sensory miracles....