THERE are almost as many different breads on the islands as there are households. Island women never measure their ingredients when making bread, and they often vary the ingredients according to what they have available. Inspired by the breads I have tasted on Kea, Astypalaia, Limnos, Paros, Crete and many other islands, I developed this one. It is dense and quite heavy. Cardamom gives it an unusual aroma. The dough will not double in volume when it rises, but it expands in the oven. Have faith, and you will be rewarded in the end.
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes, or until frothy.
In a mortar or spice grinder, finely grind the aniseeds, mahlep and cardamom, if using.
Place the starter, flours, salt and spice mix in a food processor and pulse to blend. With the motor running, pour in the yeast mixture and 1⅔ cups cold water to make a soft, sticky dough. Let the dough rest in the food processor for 15 minutes.
Process the dough for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until slightly sticky and elastic (add a little water if the dough is too stiff).
Lightly oil a large bowl and a piece of plastic wrap. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly, adding a little more flour as needed until the dough is soft and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the oiled bowl. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise until 1½ times its original volume, 4 to 5 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into an 8-x-11-inch oval or an 8-inch round. Place in a well-oiled oval baking dish or a 9-inch round cake pan, cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let it rise for 2½ hours. (It won’t rise much.)
At least 20 minutes before baking,
With a wet, very sharp knife or a baker’s razor, make 3 diagonal slashes in the surface of the dough.
Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.
© 2000 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.