Breads from Istanbul to Naples!

For the past month I have been traveling with my family in Turkey, Greece and Italy. Our goal was to eat as much bread, pizza, pita, pastries and gelato as we possibly could. We succeeded on all fronts and here is a quick look at some of the breads we devoured on our way.

Istanbul, Turkey. On our first day in Istanbul we were introduced to simit, which is as ubiquitous on the streets there as soft pretzels are in NYC. Not all of the vendors wear them on their heads, but they all have a personal flare to attract attention.

There were many bread shops, but our favorites were made fresh in the restaurants we visited.

This fresh pide (pita) was just one of many gorgeous breads being made from the wood oven at Ciya, our hands down favorite.

Here is a pide topped with a tomato, cheese and herb combination that was like nothing I’ve ever tasted, slightly tangy and rich. I will hunt for the recipe!

This is Serap, our friend and guide in Istanbul. Her presence was such a blessing and we ate and ate and ate together. She is a restauranteur in Vermont (Depot 62) and just happened to be in Turkey at the same time visiting her family. Not only did she introduce us to several traditional breads, but just about every sweet Istanbul has to offer as well.

This is a flatbread that is rolled impossibly thin, stuffed with fragrant ingredients and cooked over the oven that looks like a wok turned upside down.

These boat shaped pitta breads were very much like a Turkish pizza, although they are often stuffed with meats and other ingredients that are very traditional to the Turkish cuisine, filled with herbs and spices we don’t associate with pizza at all.

Greece. What I will remember most about Greece are the unspeakably gorgeous beaches, the mountains that must have made the Spartans weep, the Rooster who lived next door to our rental house, 100 degree days and our entire family getting sick. Yep, we took turns laying quiet, trying to keep cool and not eating a whole lot. That is why you will see very few pictures of all the pita bread I had hoped to find there. Even on the days we did venture out of our lovely home we found bread and no pita, and not very exciting bread at that. I will just have to go back and try again.

The plate of perfect tomatoes, cucumbers, pungent onions, olive oil that tasted like it was pressed at the table and feta I’d move across the ocean to eat more of made up for the lack of pita.

Naples, Italy. The birthplace of pizza. The guidebooks warned us about the traffic, the pick pockets and grit, but they undersold the place, it is all those things, but also one of the most dynamic and visually stunning places I’ve been to. Despite being stopped by a fake cop in the Metro, who tried to fine us for bogus charges, and getting lost on the way to our hotel after dark, we fell in love with the place. At 10:30pm my son and I went out searching for our first pizza, while the other two stayed at the hotel to rest. About a block away we found Sorbillo and wished we’d booked more than 3 nights in Naples. The wait to get in on a Tuesday night at nearly 11pm was about 45 minutes, which had become a familiar dinner hour for us. The Italians eat late and eat well!

The next day on our way to the “ULTIMATE” pizza shop we stopped for a few fried morsels at Di Matteo. Some are made of deep fried stuffed pizza dough and others are a ball of rice that is filled with peas and spices.

This is the arancini di riso (rice ball) with meat and peas, which tasted as though it had a slightly sour tomato sauce binding it together. Again a taste that was unlike anything I’ve had, but that I will figure out.

Here we are waiting in the hour+ long line to get a pizza at da Michele, which is regarded as the best pizza in Naples. The line of locals waiting outside was indication that not only the foreign food critics are fond of this place, it is the real deal.

The trick is that the wood oven is cranked up, the dough is made with love and the ingredients are left pure and simple and as fresh as can be.

The pizzas at da Michele come in only two varieties, the Margherita and Marinara. No need for anything else.

On the day we went to Pompei we stopped at a meat shop that was reported to make the best sandwich in town, a break from pizza so my family wouldn’t revolt half way into the trip. The proprietor sliced up fresh salad ingredients and then tossed it with oil, vinegar and thin slices of salami. We felt very smart opening up our gorgeous sandwiches while everyone else queued up at the prepackaged Pompei tourist cafeteria.

Here is a bakery in Pompei that dates back to 79ad. The large hourglass shaped towers were flour mills and the oven is way in the back. Based on the amount of real-estate this bakery took up I imagine they were cranking out a whole lot of loaves.

Here are the boys climbing into one of the ovens, to give you scale of how huge the ovens were.

Once they were in the oven they took a picture of the roof, it is a piece of functional art work.

Once we returned to Naples it was all about pizzas again, this time we went to da Michele’s rival across the street. Trianon, unlike their neighbor offers up two pages of toppings to put on your pie.

We stuck to the traditional Margarita and it was good, but we all agreed that it wasn’t quite as good as da Michele.

The last day we had lunch at Di Matteo, this time to check out their pizza.

It was a wonderful last impression of the city that kept us well fed.

As we were leaving we got a fried pizza stuffed with fresh cheese, just to make sure we didn’t get hungry on our train ride to Rome.

And as a reward for eating all that pizza we indulged in at least a gelato a day. At least one, but usually 2 and sometimes 3!

Stay tuned for my adventures in Bread from Rome to Venice. Including baking in a wood fired oven in Tuscany.

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64 thoughts on “Breads from Istanbul to Naples!

  1. I wish you sent me a note about going to Greece prior and I would have been able to give you some ideas of where to go, what to see and…find artisan breads, pita bread and pies made with handmade phyllo.

    1. Hi Peter,

      Next time I will absolutely consult with you. Our trip would have been marvelous if we hadn’t been there for the historic heat wave and we hadn’t all fallen ill. The beaches were stunning and had we had more of an appetite we would have searched high and low for the perfect pita!

      One trip down, 21 more to come! 😉

      Thanks, Zoë

  2. That Greek salad looks awesome! I have been to Greece for two extended trips and I bet I ate two of those a day. Too bad you guys were sick and couldn’t enjoy one of my favorite places on the planet as much as possible. The best breads I had were the cheese “pies” made with filo or the spanakopitas (sp?). Ate a lot of those for breakfast. Just thinking about it makes me want to pack my bag!


  3. Holy Smokes Zoe! What a fabulous trip! Gorgeous pictures and how cool for your family! Yum Yum Yum!

  4. Everything is just gorgeous–the views, the shops and restaurants, and especially the food! What an amazing way to spend a month! Your kids will have great memories, too. Now I’m absolutely staring for some homemade pizza!

  5. Oh, I am so glad you put yourself through such rigorous ‘research’ for your next book! We just tried pizza on the bbq and am now so excited to try your new recipes with a taste for the non-traditional American flavours.

  6. It’s a testament to all the walking one tends to do in Europe that you don’t all weigh 300 pounds. 😀 Looks gorgeous. I love, love, love a good, true Italian style margherita pizza.

  7. I loved this post! What a great one. I have a quick question though. I have followed the suggestions for dense crumb and now that problem is fixed. But I notice no matter how hard I smooth the top of my gluten free breads (except for the Brioche with the egg wash and raw sugar covering it up??) they all look like biscuits on top. Any suggestions on how to get around that?

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      It is just the way these doughs behave, because there is very little stretch in the dough to form a smooth surface. Like the brioche you could brush the surface with egg wash or even water and sprinkle it with sesame seeds or other topping to enhance the flavor and also add an attractive crust.

      I hope this helps! Zoë

  8. Hi, I am making the German Vollkornbrot and I replaced the rye flakes with rye berries. Should I have made any other modifications to the recipe? Right now there is no “elasticity” to the dough when I shape it, it’s just a blob of loose dough. I’m sure it’ll still taste great, but I want it to be awesome. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi Sabrina,

      This is a loose dough, so I’m not sure if replacing the flakes with the berries would make it even more so. You may have to bake a loaf and see if there are other modifications that are needed. If the dough and bread seem too wet you can add a bit more flour to the remaining dough.

      Let us know how the baked bread comes out and we can help you with the remaining dough, unless of course you love the bread as is!

      Thanks, Zoë

  9. This looks amazing! I know you are busy, but I wanted to ask this question, for whenever you get a chance. I have been wanting to make a bread like one of these, that has a flavorful, oily, crust. Any ideas how? what is put on for topping?



    1. Hi Tara,

      I would imagine that they are using a high quality vegetable shortening that is mixed with either olive oil or butter. These types of shortenings are common in big bakeries, but are unavailable to home bakers. I would make a combination of melted butter and oil, then let it cool so you can coat the top of the loaf with a nice layer. It won’t cling in quite the same way as the bakery mixture, but the flavor will be nice. You can add seasonings and herbs to it as well.

      Let us know how it goes! Zoë

  10. Ah…Real Margherita pizza in Napoli! I lived there for 4 years and remember how the olive oil would run down my arm as I ate pulled slices of my pizza. Absolutely fabulous, and not replicated anywhere in the states. The wonderful Mozzarella du Buffalo had a much fresher taste…..

  11. Your trip sounds wonderful, your mission commendable. Your Artisan bread in 5 minutes cookbook is hooked to my hip. 12 of my fiends and I are gathering in my small kitchen to learn and practice how to make your bread for a church fund raiser. I’ve been practicing daily for the past two weeks. What a “revolution.” Even my mishaps are delicious. Thank you for this website as well. Peace and blessings to you and yours…

  12. ACK! So, I woke up this morning to the realization that when I made my Gluten-Free Boule dough yesterday (in a hurry…) I started out wanting to make half a recipe, so all my dry ingredients were halved, but then I had to run do something else and when I came back and mixed my wet ingredients, I used the full recipe! Sigh…and it rose up so nicely, too!

    My Question: is there a way to salvage this? Can I just mix in the other half of the dry ingredients now? Should I add more yeast and try for a second rise? I was wanting it to make a pizza crust, so it was going to be a very thin bread, can I just use it as-is, and flour it good as I’m shaping it?

    1. Brenda: I’m guessing that the most reliable salvage attempt here would be to scale up the recipe by adding the the other half of the dry ingredients. I don’t think you’ll need additional yeast, just give it some time after this maneuver.

      I’m guessing it will be too wet to use for anything as-is…

  13. I’m making the soft whole wheat sandwich bread. I’m running into trouble when it comes out of the fridge. Instead of being pliable and stretchy when I try to make it into a ball, the dough breaks apart.

    This is the second time it’s happened to me with this recipe, so at least I’m consistent.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Kristen: Sounds like you just need a little more water, but I’d need a little more info. Mainly, how are the breads turning out, whether or not the dough seems off to you. Flavor? Texture? If both good, doesn’t matter about the resiliency of the dough.

      Exactly which recipe, from which of our books are you talking about? Jeff

  14. I grew up making bread, and have always thought it was good but a lot of work. I stumbles across you book somewhere on Facebook (who knows where now:) and am in love with the process, simplicity, and creativity you can get. I am a photographer and think that your books are doing for bread making what the digital camera did for photography…you have opened the doors for others to find a creative outlet. Bravo! I have both if your books and am testing a recipe every day (just 6 months ago my family cut out all processed foods, so your books are an amazing time saver for me as well…and BTW, my husband has lost 60 lbs, and I have lost 20 by consuming only real, wholesome foods). I am working on being able to understand the dough so I can improvise with the lovely organic stone ground flours I have (from Great River Organic Milling)…so far so good!

  15. Ok Jeff, here are two:

    1. At what ratio of white to whole wheat should I add the vital wheat gluten? Some of my flours are “whole wheat bread flour”, and I’m not sure if I should add the gluten.

    2. My bread when cooled has an ever so slight gummy texture. It is not dense, just feels a bit wet inside. Is this normal for a wet dough, or does that mean I should make my dough a bit drier?

  16. Jennifer: Even though your WW is labeled as “bread” flour, it probably will need VWG starting at about 50/50 white:WW ratio. May not need the full dose, depending on your taste. See also our FAQ on this, second one from the bottom on that tab.

    About the gummy sensation– shouldn’t be. Either bake a little longer, or yes, dry out your mixture a little (decrease water or increase flour). Let’s say, by a quarter cup as a first try.

    Check your oven temp too– use something like Jeff

  17. Hi, I read in the FAQs that if you leave bread out overnight, it is still okay to use, but I left the loaf bread recipe that had eggs in it out for 8 hours 🙁 after I left the house and forgot about it. Should I toss it since it had eggs in it or does the yeast and salt somehow preserve it (I’m hoping??) TIA

    1. Kim: USDA (US Department of Agriculture) would say toss it out, don’t know if we need to be that cautious, but it’s all I can tell you. Jeff

  18. Hi Jeff,

    The bread is turning out tasting fine, but a little gummy in the very center. That may be from taking it out of the oven a little too early. Or do you think that could be related to the problem I’m having? I’ll try adding more water next time. Thanks for the suggestion.

    The recipe is the ‘Soft whole wheat sandwich bread’ from Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day.

    Thanks again!

  19. Thanks — that’s what I suspected. Totally bummed since I made a double batch this time :(:(. Thanks again!

  20. Kristen: Well… if it’s gummy in the center, making it wetter is going to worsen the problem. Make sure you’re doing a full 90 minute resting time. Also check your oven temp with something like


  21. Hi! I never baked bread before reading your book and this monday I just made my 1st batch of (master recipe) boule dough from your Artisan Bread in 5 Min book and so far I have had two baking days! I am so thrilled!
    I have a question. My kids love fluffy/soft dinner rolls (like ones they make at the Costco bakery, frex) and I was wondering if any of the dough recipes would come out similar to that?

    1. Hi Maria,

      None of our breads will have just the same texture as those fluffy white buns, but you will get close with the brioche or the buttermilk dough.

      Thank you and enjoy! Zoë

  22. I’ve been experimenting with molasses, but I can’t get it quite right. I want a very sweet, chewy bread (think Black Angus), but I keep running into problems with the molasses fermenting in the fridge, burning in the oven, too strong, not enough, etc. Do you have a recipe that I can’t find in either book?

    1. Alanna: I think the problem is that molasses does tend to burn, so we use it sparingly, 2T per full batch, which really isn’t much, in both pumpernickel recipes (one in each book). Jeff

  23. Wow Zoe, you really seem to have gone all out on this trip! All of it looked absolutely yummy, and I can’t wait for Pizza & Flatbread in Five Minutes A Day (and your next post on the other great breads you discovered on this trip!)!

    Although, I like the idea of handmade phyllo dough using the exact same Artisan Bread in Five method. I happen to have a mother who is just one of the best cooks around, and she makes spanikopita with the phyllo dough you find in your grocer’s freezer, which isn’t exactly the best or most ideal, but she DOES slather the phyllo with butter…

    And my father was very much intrigued by my copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day (he’s an old-style baker, punching the dough, et al), so I have a distinct feeling he won’t be giving me my copy back!

    Thank goodness for Apple’s iBookstore, though, because BOTH of your fantastic books are on there for $15 a pop!


  24. Great book; however, I can only eat GF – there is no wheat, etc. in my home. I wish one could purchase just the gluten-free section separately. There are people, such as me, who will not keep a “two-flour” kitchen, so the rest of the book is inapplicable.

    1. Mary: Our books are meant to be of general interest to most audiences, no plans for an all-GF book at the moment.

  25. @Mary Lee – I’m a strictly gluten-free baker, and I’m so happy I bought the HBin5 book. While I only make the GF doughs, I’ve used some of the regular recipes to make variations on the GF doughs – for example, using the GF Brioche dough in place of regular brioche for donuts and cinnamon bread. There’s also a lot of helpful information in the intro chapters. I’d say it’s worth it to buy the book.

  26. I am using, and LOVING, your Healthy Brad book. I’ve made bread for about 6 years. I own a grain mil and grind white and red hard wheat to bake with. Should I make an adjustment to the liquid in the recipes ? It seems to require less water. Perhaps the flour is wetter when it’s freshly ground than after sitting on the shelf for a while?

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      So glad you are enjoying the book. It does seem that most people have better results when they increase the amount of vital wheat gluten when using freshly ground wheat. The courser flour tends not to absorb as much water or develop the same elasticity, so adding a tablespoon or two more VWG seems to help.

      Thanks! Zoë

  27. Seeing all the pictures of pizza reminds me that I had a question for you on that subject. I’ve been using the master recipe for the crust, gradually increasing the ration of AP to WW so that I am now up to 50/50. I use 1lb of dough on a 14-inch pizza pan rather than a stone. I know the book says to top the pizza as soon as it’s rolled out but my crust seems to end up a little too soggy even after 15 minutes at 550 degrees. For a pizza pan, would you recommend letting the dough rest a brief period, say 15-20 minutes, before topping. Or do you think there’s some other issue that I’m missing? I don’t have the same problem when I make calzones on a baking sheet, but then I add the steam. Many thanks for your books, your web site, and your insights.

    1. Wendy– it’s a pretty thick pizza you’re making, and you are increasing the WW. You could either let it rest as you suggest, or consider baking “blind,” which means untopped for 5 to 7 minutes to dry it out a bit– and THEN top it. Jeff

  28. Hi. Wonderful trip. So, I make pizzas and Ztaar bread all the time with your dough. Will OO pasta dough from KA work, or will the recipe need to be modified? Thx.

    1. Michele: “00” from KAF works great, but you need to decrease the liquids in the recipe as it’s lower-protein than white AP flour. Unfortunately, our publisher will kill me if I put recipes from our upcoming book (Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day– up here on our website prematurely, so you’ll have to experiment. Jeff

  29. Thanks Jeff. I thought that might be the case. Well, I will use it for pasta and wait breathlessly for the new book. I hope that you come to Barbara Fenzl’s to teach when it is released.

  30. my dough rises well in the intial period but after putting in fridge and removing blob to make a loaf, it scarcely raises and makes a heavy loaf only about 2 1/2 inches high. I have tried 3 recipes now in the healthy bread in 5 book and talked to another lady who is having the exact same problem..I have even tried putting in a bread loaf pan so it doesn’t spread out, but hopes it would go up. Help. Love the concept but not working for me

    1. Brenda: Are you using vital wheat gluten? What brands of flour are you using? Which recipes from the book are you using (or just give the pages)? Jeff

  31. Hi Jeff & Zoe,
    This is Ann your assistant at Cooks of Crocus Hill on Saturday. I am making the Olive Oil dough for homemade pizza tonight and was wondering what temperature should I have the oven on and how long should I cook it? Do I need to add water to the oven in a pan as well? How thin should it be? Thanks and I really enjoyed the class!

    1. Hi Ann,

      Thank you for all of your help on Saturday! We are thrilled that you will be baking pizzas with the dough. Crank your oven up as high as it will go (500 or 550 degrees) and let the stone preheat for at least 30 minutes, especially if you have a thick stone. No need to add water/steam to the oven when baking pizzas.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  32. I make my pizza dough with 2/3 KAF 00 and 1/3 semolina. It comes out great. Very pliable, bakes up crisp and chewy, not “bready”, just the way I like it.

  33. Hi. I am using a revised Olive Oil dough (2 cups WW instead of A/P) for a pizza dough. We love it! I would like to use another recipe for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Could you suggest a few picky-family-friendly recipes? I have HBin5. Thank you so much for responding to my posts.

    1. Hi RR,

      You can make bread sticks (Grissini p. 231) out of just about any dough and the pickiest eaters will love them. They are also perfect for dipping!

      Thanks, Zoë

  34. Just made a revised batch of WWB with OO to make Grissini. While waiting I made revised Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese frosting. Just finished my third roll with coffee when I begged the kids to eat the rest. Then proceeded to eat a fourth one. I’m now waiting for caramel sticky buns. What page of the book says, “STOP! You’ve baked enough.” My stand mixer is tired, my new Cambro containers are tired, my HBin5 is full of post-its and flags. My Dutch whisk is lightly used only because I have not made just one batch in one day.

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