Savory Barley and Wheat Biscuits


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


    4½ inch biscuits

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THESE crunchy, aromatic biscuits can be enjoyed on their own or served with any kind of cheese, from smooth, creamy ones like ricotta to sharp cheeses like Roquefort. Great with any kind of dip, paximadia can be made into a wonderful bread salad by breaking them into pieces and tossing them with chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta, some olives, onion rings, a pinch of oregano and plenty of olive oil.

An old man from Mykonos told me that not so long ago, merchant ships liked his island as a stopover, because there the sailors could stock up on paximadia. Similar biscuits are still baked on many islands of the Aegean, with those from Crete being the most popular. Although the generation that traditionally ate this bread has either died or switched to more refined foods, a new generation of consumers who tasted paximadia during their summer vacations on the islands is enthusiastically reviving them, and in most Athenian neighborhoods, one can now find them in bakeries.

The recipe is my version of the doughnut-shaped paximadia from Crete. They keep for up to 6 months.

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  • About cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon aniseeds
  • cups barley flour
  • 2–2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup sweet red wine, such as Mavrodaphne or sweet Marsala
  • ½ cup dry red wine


In a medium bowl, combine cup of the water, the honey and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

In a mortar or a spice grinder, grind the salt and aniseeds into a coarse powder. Place the barley flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour and aniseed mixture in a food processor. With the motor running, pour in the yeast mixture, oil and wines, then add enough of the warm water, about ⅓ cup, to make a soft, sticky dough. Process for 1 minute, or until the dough comes together. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Process the dough for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until smooth and sticky (add more water if the dough is too stiff).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is soft and only slightly sticky, adding more all-purpose flour as needed. Shape the dough into a ball. Oil it all over with a few drops of oil, place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1½ hours.

Oil two large baking sheets. Cut the dough in half and cut each half into quarters. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap. Roll each piece into a 1-inch-thick rope, then shape each rope into a ring, overlapping the ends slightly. Pinch to seal and place 1½ inches apart on the baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 2 hours.

At least 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake the rings for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until they are light golden on top and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to warm (175°F).

With a serrated knife, halve the circles horizontally. Place the halves cut side up directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven, overlapping if necessary, and bake for 1½ to 2 hours, or until completely dry. Let cool completely and store in airtight containers.