A meal in Turkey isn’t a meal without bread; it’s part of the fabric and culture, but the days when the only choice was the standard loaf are coming to an end led by artisan bakers such Babafirun in FETHIYE.
So join us on our journey into the wonderful world of the Turkish bakery.
Bread is a timeless accompaniment to a meal in many parts of the world and Turkey is no exception.
A couple of decades ago the choice of bread in Fethiye was limited to village bread, pide, lavaş and industrially produced loaves.
Although tearing off chunks of bread to enjoy with your food was a timeless essential part of the Turkish meal experience, you were lucky if you could anything apart from standard fare.
There are many older, traditional shops still making this excellent bread in and around the town.
Some households still make their own flatbread too and this can also be bought from the Farmers’ Market every Friday.
More than just a loaf
As we’ve said, no meal is complete without quantities of fresh ekmek – bread – on the sofa – table.
Bread is embedded in the culture
Bread, however is not just about mopping up delicious sulu yemek or çorba, although it is an incredibly important part of Turkish culture.
In Islam, as in Christianity, it is highly significant, playing an important role in both the religion and daily life.
Sometimes you might see bags of bread left on a wall, for others to take if they need it; bread should never go to waste.
One blogger, Turkish Life Café, describes the significance of bread for Muslim people, in Turkey and elsewhere:
If you see bread lying on the ground you should pick it up and place it where it can not be stood on and say “Bismillah”.
While baking bread a baker will say “Bismillah” and again before placing the bread in the oven to bake.
Muhammad would eat bread and use it as an example of the simplicity of Islam and leading a religious life.
Bread represents the eternal life and the food required to feed the body.
Bread is Allah’s provision and is in abundance. It is the giver and the gift of life.”
The Fethiye bread boom
At the beginning of the 21st century several new shops opened in Fethiye, marketing their bakeries as Karadenizli (which is Turkish for coming from the Black Sea, an important region for bread flour) and gradually the varieties of bread increased.
However, the biggest change came a few years ago with the arrival of Babafırın – Daddy’s Bakehouse – this highly professional business soon became well-known and loved for its wealth of loaves by Turkish and foreign customers alike.
Since then a large number of shops, some with several branches, have opened and now there are also a couple of smaller establishments that celebrate the traditional craft of bread making, and some even only use organic flour.
We visited four of our favourite bakeries very early on Monday morning, to see their produce on display and ready for the day but before a steady stream of customers had cleared the shelves.
Feed me ‘til I want no more…
Babafırın – Taşyaka Hill – on the main Ölüdeniz road
The first Babafırın opened near the site of the Çalış Sunday market a couple of years ago, and soon got a reputation for some of the best bread in town.
They have a comprehensive range of breads using tried and tested recipes from Turkey and various European countries like Germany and Italy.
Head baker, Mehmet and shop manager, were there, as always, to show of their wares.
They will be happy to give you a list of their breads, which also specifies the ingredients.
Evidently Babafırın is unique in Turkey for its range of breads.
Hüner – Ölüdeniz Cad. No 37 (Just past and opposite Erasta AVM)
Hünger has several branches in Fethiye, and serve consistently good traditional Turkish bread, ranging from crusty white loaves to whole wheat and corn bread. They also sell enormous pide, fit for a Turkish banquet.
Burçak – Baha Şıkman Cad. No 37 (70 metres up on the left from the Micros roundabout)
Baker Ismael’s lifestyle is nocturnal. He bakes all night and only turns in at 4pm, getting up at 7pm to repeat the ritual.
And for Ismail it is a ritual and one he repeats 1,500 times every day.
The tenderness with which he handles the loaves as he places them on a large wooden paddle, and then crosses them with a stick, makes an observer realize that for him this is more that a craft, it is a celebration.
The “sarı buğday” yellow wheat that he uses is organic and he has a traditional and simple recipe; flour, a little salt, a little sugar and yeast.
These simple ingredients result in a perfect loaf every time…
Soydemirler – Köprübaşı Mevkii, 138 Sokak (on the other side of the main road from the Tuesday Market)
The Soydemir family now has a shop opposite the Fethiye Chamber of Commerce building across the main road from the Tuesday market.
They used to be around the corner but have been in this part of Fethiye for many years and have a reputation for traditional and consistently good bread.
They also bake the most delicious simit, perfect for a breakfast feast.
Please note that Babafırın also sells the most divine cakes – but we will tell you about those next time.