Bonding over Bread (Maltese Bread or Ftira Recipe)

I don’t think it would be appropriate to have a blog called Tal-Forn and not include the best bread recipe ever!  Anyone who has ever tried it has given it 5 stars and I guarantee that if you try this,  you won’t be disappointed and we’ll be bread friends for life!

Ftira

In fact, this recipe has made me quite a few friends, from around the world.  But first let me tell you a little bit about how it came to be.

When we came to live in the United States, back in 1994, there were quite a few things I missed, but nothing more than a good loaf of Maltese Bread!  I tried the fancy bakeries and the not so  fancy stores but nothing came close, so within a week of settling down, I got my first bread machine! It was and still is the most used gadget in my kitchen to date!  I’m actually on my third one which is less than a month old and a gift from my lovely family in Malta…love you guys soo much!

So I’ve been making bread for years and years but I still had not come close to the taste and texture of the Maltese Ftira that everyone falls in love with on their first visit to the lovely Island of Malta.   Every now and then, I’d do a search for nothing, but never gave up.  Then  along came fb and there it was…the recipe I’d been looking for all these years on Ilovefood.com. It was quite a detailed recipe from a Linda Speight from London!!    The thing that captured my interest  from the get go, was her first sentence, which went something like “This is much easier than it sounds…”.   Plus she had written the recipe in so much detail that I thought there was no way I could fail!  And so I set on another mission to see if this was the recipe of my dreams.

Being an avid baker, I had all the ingredients on hand and started making the starter, which I’d always found intimidating.  And the rest is history.   The best part though, is that Linda and I are best of friends.  We bonded over bread and we now chat all the time, sharing recipes and talk about food and weather and everything in between!!

Ok…so if you googled Maltese Bread or Ftira and Google brought you to my blog, you must be eager to get started and make this delicious bread in your own kitchen.  I have tried making this recipe with AND without a  bread machine and I have to admit that this ONLY works with a bread machine.

Recipe…

You have to have a starter….if you don’t, don’t worry,  it’s really easy to make your own…

All you need is a clean jar and some flour and water.

Put a tablespoon each of water and flour in a clean jar and stir with a plastic spoon or chopstick which is what I use and cover.   They say metal is not good…not sure why and I don’t ask questions. Store in a warm place away from direct sunlight.

Do this every day…each morning, add another tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of flour, and stir and cover…for seven days…and on the eighth day, you’re ready to start on your first loaf/rolls/ftira/pizza/focaccia…oh so many things you can make!!

In the bread machine pan, put

Ingredients

1/2 cup starter
1 1/2 cups water
(together the starter and water should weigh 420gr)

3 cups (420gr) high gluten flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

2 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Put everything in the bread machine on the dough cycle.  When it’s done, take out the dough and let it rest for about five minutes.  Divide in 3 equal parts.  Take each part and flatten it a bit to about 8-10 inch rounds.  Tear a hole in the middle. Cover and let it rest until double in size for about half an hour but it really all depends on how warm your kitchen is.  Bake at 425 for about 12-15 mins.  Again, it depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.

Now that you made this, don’t forget to feed your starter every day.  Just add equal amounts of water and flour and this can go on for years!  If you need to go on holiday or just need a break from making bread, just store the starter in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use again, take it out, feed it and use it at room temperature.

Hope you enjoyed this post and if you make this bread, I’ll be very happy to hear how it turned out for you or answer any questions.  Here’s to bread!!

116 thoughts on “Bonding over Bread (Maltese Bread or Ftira Recipe)”

  1. I can definitely second that this is by far the best bread I have ever had! And it is quite addictive to eat and there is something about baking bread with a starter that the flavor and the texture of the bread just comes to life! This is a must try recipe and thank you G for sharing this generous recipe to all of us!

    1. Greetings. Your recipe made me home sick as it rang a bell from way back. I have made a starter that originated in malta and it is very similar to the ones from the mediteranean. I will make a batch of your starter and when it is proofed, bake some bread. Your presentation of maltese bread is the best I have come across. Once upon a time, I graduated with 19 maltese students aand our break pastime was to share our lunches and desserts!
      I’d be glad to hear from you.
      Armenak.

      1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I am soo glad that I aroused such wonderful memories for you…way back when???? 🙂

        I am very curious to know how the starter I use here and the one you have, differ. Did somebody share some with you or did you start it yourself? Of course the water we use is different from Maltese water and will probably not come out exactly like what you remember, but it’s close:)

        I hope you like how it comes out…lovely to hear from you and please write back and tell us how you liked it 🙂

  2. Ha ha…you will have no choice in the matter Di 🙂

    Karl, you have have have to try making this…you will not regret…

    Ivy…you were one of the first to try this bread and love…thank you for your encouraging words 🙂

  3. Ok .. I’m trying it! Can’t resist anymore! LOL! I’m going to be gone for 2 days which would be the 6th and 7th day of the starter .. should I store it in the fridge while I’m gone?

  4. Duh! I just read the last part where you specifically gave out instructions for when one is away! Haha! But ok, I have another question .. can this be done without a bread machine? Any tips for us that are deprived from such a luxury? 😛

  5. Yes there is…but I have to say that I have not mastered it myself. My friend Linda has had exceptional results and she makes it by hand. This is how she does it…

    Bread comes out great with hand kneading, but what I did the past six months (since reading an article in theTimes) is that once I mix it I cover and leave for ten minutes…then knead abit..cover..go back after ten minutes and knead a bit more…then cover and go back after another ten minutes and bash it once again!! That makes the hand process a lot easier! Then after the final kneading just put it in a bowl that you first oil with a bit of olive oil …then cover and let it rise. And then when you shape it I discovered that it is best to let it prove for a full half hour before baking….but in warmer climates yuo would get away with less I think.

    And that is straight from the horse’s mouth!! Linda is the expert cause if it weren’t for her, we would not have this wonderful recipe! I hope you try it and that you’ll like it! Make sure you get the right flour! I can’t insist enough on this. Good luck and let us know how it goes 🙂

    1. Hi Georgina, I just came across your recipe and i cant wait to try it out, i don’t have a bread machine and i will be using a mixer to knead the dough will i use the mixer as the times you mentioned above?
      i would prefer to do a loaf of bread rather than “Ftira” at first,but by what i read on this blog the recipe is for a “Ftira” my question is , should i assume that if i use a bit less water it will shape more like a loaf of bread, or is there an other way to do it?
      Thank you in advance and keep up the great work

      1. Hi Peter, nice to see you here and thank you for trying out the recipe. I have made the same ftira dough into a round loaf of bread and I did not change anything. The only difference is the amount of time I let it bake in the oven. I usually bake it in 425 degree oven for about 35 to 45 minutes to get that lovely crumb. Like I said before though, I did not have great results using the stand mixer but some of my friends have. I wish you the best and if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask…all the best 🙂

  6. Just a small sideline for those in the US that couldn’t find high gluten flour with 11g of protein per serving or more. Georgina suggested I use Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten added to Pillsbury Bread flour. 540g of Bread flour with 60grams of Red Mill Gluten.

    1. Has anyone ever tried to use spelt flour to make the bread?? It has a high protein content also. Just curious and so anxious to get my starter going.

      1. Hi Diana,

        I have not worked with spelt flour before but have been reading about it and would love to give it a try. I am sure this recipe can be altered in so many ways with great results…as in half whole wheat and half white flour. If you do try it out with spelt flour, I would love to hear from you telling us how it went and what results you got. Now I’m intrigued and will go to Whole Foods to get some spelt flour…now see what you did 🙂 ha ha…

  7. Ok guys, I have tried this recipe and I give it A++++++++++++++++. Actually, there is not an enough amount of +’s that I could give it, because it just doesn’t get any better than this. So its an A+ to the power of +! It was so authentic it was almost unreal! The texture is perfect, with the air bubbles .. just like in Malta! The only thing that I did different was the kneading part, I did everything by hand, which took a little bit longer but with Linda’s advice and invaluable tips, I managed to obtain the same result. I cannot recommend this or any of Georgina’s work enough .. she slays it every time so y’all need to hail the Queen of Maltese Food!

  8. Ha ha…oh I can feel your excitement Karl!! It’s the same way I felt when I found and tried Linda’s recipe for the first time. I felt like I’d struct gold!! I know how it feels to miss something so much and how it feels when you finally find it!! Sooo happy you tried it and extra happy that you succeeded!! Living abroad we tend to miss Maltese food and this is as good as it gets!! Now I have to go find my tiara 🙂

  9. well I made the bread but it hasnt risen as much as it should have .. the yeast was good and the flour was 59 % protien so not sure of the reason .. it will still taste good but a bit flat …almost like a ciabatta …any ideas why this is ?

    1. I think you did everything right Annie. Ftira is a flat bread. The dough is supposed to be on the wet side for this reason. When I say wet, I mean on the sticky side.

      Did you leave it long enough to proof? There really is no “time limit” that’s good for everybody cause everybody’s kitchen is not the same warmth. Put it in the oven only when you’ve seen that the bread has proofed enough. Even if it takes over an hour. I live in a warm climate so for me half an hour is usually enough.

      Wow…59% protein!! That’s a lot…never came across a flour so strong here.

      Do you use a bread machine?? I have only had success with this recipe using a BM. I’ve tried it in my stand mixer and was disappointed…but I have never had it fail in a bread machine…so I can only vouch for that method I’m afraid.

      I hope this helps Annie…and don’t give up. This really is a very good recipe.

  10. thanks for the reply .the bread is delish perhaps the photo makes it look bigger … it was very sticky and yes I used the BM on dough setting .. will make it again .. it is our autmn here so house isnt warm I ended up putting it in the laundry ….and left it an hour ..do I have to wait another 7 days before I can use the starter to make another loaf ? ……hubby had his with cheese mine with soup ..
    we lived in malta 1962 to 1964 … but as I was just a newly married 18 year old from Britain sliced white bread was all I bought lol …. didnt try anything new ..now living in Australia will eat anything going ……loving the recipes on here …My two daughters were born in Malta and am thinking of having a Maltese theme night for the next get together …

  11. Oh that’s a brilliant idea…the Maltese Theme Party I mean! So will you be making pastizzi and qassatat? Maybe timpana or rabbit? Oh now I’m hungry:) So happy you’re enjoying the recipes. If you need any recipes that you might not have, let me know and I’ll see if I have it in my big pile over here:)

    So as far as the starter goes…did you not have any left?? If not, then yes, you will have to start another one I’m afraid. If you do have some left (even a tiny little bit), just continue feeding it with equal amounts of water and flour every day. And you will always have a starter…it keeps indefinitely if you feed it every day. If you need to take a break, just store it in the fridge and when you’re ready to use it again, take it out and feed it again and use it at room temperature.

    Very happy you enjoyed the bread. I make it two or three times a week…and have been making it for about two years now and I’m still not tired of it. Happy to hear from you Annie…and please let me know if you have any more questions.

  12. We have just recently returned from Malta, where we first tasted this brilliant bread. We went back to a little restaurant in Valetta three times to eat their sandwiches. Please can you help me with a recipe for the tuna filling…. it was quite unusual.

    Also we loved the very short pastry which were made into little “cones” with cheese filling (I had spinach) -have you got a recipe for that too?

    thanks and regards from South Africa

  13. Maltese Sandwiches do keep you coming back for more don’t they? 🙂 Especially if you had it with Tomato Paste and Tuna…it’s just a taste of summer that’s most welcoming. The main ingredient is Tomato Paste…make sure you use a good brand and just smear it on the bread quite lavishly. Then of course a good Olive Oil! Then really it’s up to you what else you like on it. Tuna and olives and capers and onions. I don’t know if you tried the Maltese Cheese…called Gbejna (also a recipe on this blog) which if you don’t have the means to make yourself, you can substitute with Feta. Some people like to put pickled veggies and pickled onions. Also some cannelini beans go very well in the mix. If you don’t have tomato paste, substitute with halfing a tomato and rubbing it on the bread instead. Bit of salt and pepper and you’re good to go…hope this helps 🙂

    I’m not sure which “cones/pyramids” you are talking about…but you will find Pastizzi and Qassatat on here…check those out and see if they ring a bell.

    Thanks for visiting my blog…let me know if I can be of anymore help…

    Here’s a link to the filling I like to use in my ftira…http://www.tal-forn.com/2013/01/hobz-biz-zejt-u-l-kunserva/

  14. thanks again for your reply yes I did have starter left ..so have plenty to make more bread today .. thinking I might split dough into just two instead of three to make a bigger loaf ..what do you think .. its a bit warmer here today 23 degrees …any advice how to clean the breadmaker pan afterwards mine was a sticky mess lol …

    1. I have divided the dough in half and it works too…but I find dividing it by three makes it a good size to fit on my pizza stone.
      This is my uncle’s trick and now I use it all the time and it works like a charm. I let the stuck on dough dry totally out in the pan and then it peels right off:) Then I dust the remaining bits off with a cloth. Comes off just like magic:)

  15. ok so I re read you post about protien and the bread mix is 11 gr per 100 grams …and 59 gr protien per serve whatever that means .. I have bought some spelt flour to try with this recipe but want to get it right first so have a new batch baking now ….

    1. You should have great results with 11gr of protein. I know it has to be strong flour and to tell you the truth I’m still not sure what the difference is between gluten and protein. I just know it has to be high gluten. I get my flour in bulk and that is all it says on the container is “hi gluten”. Oh please let me know how your batch with spelt flour comes out. I’ve never used that and I know spelt is becoming more and more popular these days. Maybe we should do some experimenting:) So did you substitute all the flour for spelt or just a little?

          1. Yes, mason jar is great. And I think making the starter with spelt flour is an excellent idea!! I’d love to hear feedback of how it goes for you…in a week’s time? 🙂 Wish you all the best Diana…

        1. Hi Georgina, I just read that link. I guess I will try the starter with spelt flour and then mix with bread flour when it is time to bake?? Trial and error I guess. Thank you.

  16. Hi, just back from Malta and Gozo and addicted to the blackened crust round loaves, fresh from the bakery in the morning. The opening image on the website looks like the pizza bases but not the round loaves. Is there a recipe for the loaves? I’m withdrawing. I am prepared to work hard at it !

    Thank you

  17. Rosemarie…if you want the round loaves…try this recipe instead….http://karl0415.blogspot.com/2013/03/hobz-tal-malti-maltese-bread.html#.UdtRyT7wIxl

    I hope you find that this is what you’re looking for. This recipe is for Ftira which is the flat bread you find in Malta…

    I have used this same recipe to make the round loaves and all I did was I formed it in a round loaf and baked it in a dutch oven pan that I had preheated at 450 for about half an hour…then I baked it for half an hour with the lid closed…then I took the lid off and baked it for another 15 mins. It gets the crumb you are looking for.

    I hope you like…

  18. I was looking for a recipe for Indian flatbread when I found your site. My step grandfather was born in Malta and came to the US when he was a young man around 1917-1920. He taught my grandmother to make kawlata, pastizzi and a baked macaroni dish with curry, beef and yellow cheese. There were other dishes but I remember these specifically and loved them all. She even made the pastizzi dough from scratch (it was the only time I ever heard her swearing). Your bread recipe sounds wonderful and I will try it one day. I also use a bread machine for making dough. I just want to mention that anyone who wants a bread machine can find one in a thrift store for cheap. I only paid $10 or $12 for my last one. It looked like it was never used. Just make sure to check that all the parts are there, especially the mixing paddle. My first machine was a Christmas gift from my in-laws back in the 80’s when they cost around $250. It still works but I needed another one because I used to make a lot of bread and one loaf wasn’t enough so I often had both machines going at once. I even take one when I go camping or on overnight trips when I will be helping with cooking.

    1. Hi Pat…you know, after my ten yr old machine died, I went looking at Thrift stores as well, and there were a couple that were probably only used a couple of times and I almost got one…but then my parents surprised me one, but I would’ve been happy with the $10 one as well as I only ever use the dough cycle.

      Very funny about the pastizzi dough. My friend also was tempted to try it and I had to warn her that it’s not the easiest of doughs to handle:) It’s also her favourite:)

      So nice to hear from you Pat and I hope you get to try making the bread…will be happy to hear how you like it or if you had any problems with the recipe. All the best!

      Oh btw, maccaroni dish with curry is called Imqarrun il-forn and I absolutely LOVE Kawlata and now that I know how to make maltese sausage as well, I will be making it on the first cold winter’s day 🙂

  19. Just found this thread – wanted to know if there are any special steps required if you are at 6000′ in elevation (Colorado). It’s always a challenge to try and get recipes right at this elevation.
    thanks!

    1. Well – circling back with comments – I made another batch today and the bread turned out great. At 6000′ I used a little less yeast and it worked perfectly.
      Also – (for me) it was a challenge to try and find out how to get Whey for the recipe – the number of places I went to try and find it. I ended up getting some cheese cloth and lining a colander , then dumped a large container of plain organic yogurt into it and let it drain down in the fridge for a couple of days. Not sure how others have done this, but would be interested in finding out. The bread has a much better taste than if it is cooked with water.
      thanks again for the recipe!!
      (6300′ in elevation Steve)

      1. Hi Steve…I’m so glad you tried this recipe even though I could not help you with the elevation information. And I am in total agreement that although it is not necessary to use whey to make this bread, it certainly adds a certain tang and lightness when baked this way.

        Thank you for getting back to me and letting me how it turned out for you…I love happy endings 🙂

  20. dear georgina- we went visiting malta from cyprus and like others fell in love with the bread. in reading others, i found that the dough is to be stickiy, not wet as in a no-knead bread. mine was soft but not soft enough because i had a more even texture in the final product and i did knead it for good development in my mixer. how long is the cycle in your bread machine? do you “under knead” the dough? do you really extend(push) the second rise before going into the oven? and the stone i believe would contribute to the crumb, also. well it is time to start making more starter. thank you for the receipe. bill. what a wonderful country!!

    1. Hi Bill…

      Isn’t the bread in Malta just the best? I have a panasonic bread machine and the dough cycle is 2hrs 20mins…which I think is rather long. After you hit start, it doesn’t start working for a while which I think, the purpose for this is to get the ingredients all same temp. I always make sure I like the consistency of the dough in the first ten minutes of the cycle and adjust flour/water accordingly. This is sooo important. The end result could be light and airy and puffy. If too sticky then the baked ftira would not be as nice. A few tries and you’ll get it down. I now bake it for about 15-20 mins as I like it to be crunchy but of course you can bake to your taste. I do let it rise after taking it out of the BM and I handle the least possible…just kinda prod it down like focaccia…let it rise for another half an hour and bake. I hope this helps…

  21. I left Malta only in September but by now I found myself craving maltese food alot especially tonight that I opened the fridge and saw my maltese tomate paste (three hill brand), tuna, olives and fresh basil. And I also have some 100% pure maltese olive oil.. I was longing for a tuna ftira.
    Thanks for the receipe I just got my starter going, can’t wait till sunday so I can bake the bread..
    Hope it comes good.

    1. I hope so too Laura 🙂 I’m so glad you found this post to be helpful for you. I know how it is when you go to a foreign place and love the food so much that you want to replicate it at home. Please let me know if you have any questions…and also how you liked the ftira if you get the chance…all the best to you for the holidays AND for the ftira 🙂

    1. Hi Cameron…

      I usually use all purpose flower…sometimes I use hi gluten…I never noticed a difference so I don’t think it matters. But there are lots of different types of starters out there. Probably artisan bakers might scoff at this one…it gives the bread a nice depth to it without being too sour. It works for me…I hope it works for you too… 🙂

  22. Hi Georgina,I tried your recipe and the bread came out great.
    i made two round loaves but the only difference i did, i let the dough rise for two hours then cut it in two parts and formed two round loaves then i let them rise again before baking.
    my friends told me the last time they had bread like that was on vacation in Gozo.

    Thanks Angelo

    1. Hi Angelo,
      You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear this!! So glad you got the results you were hoping for. I’ve tried several recipes before I settled on this one…and have now stopped looking:) You’re so welcome!

  23. Hi Georgina,
    I just happened to stumble on your page and you got me really tempted to try this out! I miss frita so much!! Everytime my parents visit, I make sure they bring some with them! I have a question about the starter…. when you say cover the jar that you mix the flour and water in… do you cover it with the jar lid? or does it need to breathe? I just started making the starter yesterday and I thought I’d better ask to be sure…. I can’t wait to try and bake my own ftira!

    1. Hi Julie…I have to say that since I started making this bread about 2-3 yrs ago, I rarely buy store bought. I missed ftira too, more than the regular Maltese Hobza…there’s just nothing like it!

      As for the starter, I do close it with the lid. It breathes everytime you feed it. My friend told me that in Japan, they open the starter jar, feed the starter and say “Arigato” to it every time and that’s all the time it needs to breathe 🙂 Cute huh?

      I hope you like the results Julie…and thanks for stopping by…

  24. Hi! I have a dear friend who is Maltese, and has been away from home a long time. He was just talking about how much he misses hobz, so I went looking for a recipe to surprise him. This one sounds not only delicious, but the most authentic, based on comments I’m seeing. Can’t wait to try it and see if he squees!

  25. Hello I have been looking at your site and reading your page on bonding over bread, I cannot seem to see the recipe for the Maltese bread. There are only pictures showing, could I please have the recipe? Thank you!

  26. Could you kindly tell me which flour you used exactly? Unbleached bread flour is good for this recipe?
    thank you

    1. You can use unbleached flour as long as you add gluten to it…the proportions are : 540 gr flour to 60 gr gluten. You then put in the recommended amount in the bread machine. Hope this helps.

    2. Best flour to use is any brand but it has to be hi gluten. If you can’t find Hi Gluten Flour, then you can mix thoroughly 540gr Unbleached Flour with 60gr of Gluten. Then use the recommended amount given in the recipe.

  27. I don’t find the recipe for the maltese bread. I want to make the bread ASAP. I find how to make the starter.

    Thanks
    Louisa

    1. The area of your article says recipe and does not show the recipe. I have a bread machine I would love to make the maltese bread.

  28. Hello! I just returned from Malta with my husband who is Maltese. He LOVES the bread! I would like to try this recipe but would like some instructions on making it without a bread machine – I don’t have the room for another machine in my kitchen. Thanks!!!

  29. Hi. This is amazing!
    I’m Polish but grew up in Malta and had ftira three times a day. With olive oil, butter, olives and of course in hobz biz zejt (ftira with olive oil and tomatoe sauce, olives, kapers etc)..
    I’ve just put my first spoon of flour and water into a jar.

    I’m used to making delicious traditional Polish bread from wholegrain rye flour. It makes a.fantastic cider-smelling starter. Without yeast just the starter, water wholegrain rye flour, a bit of plain wheat flour and salt makes a fab bread.

    Today I was making pita bread from a recipe I’d made up and suddenly it dawned upon me that it tastes a teeny weeny bit like ftira. And thanks to you my Malta-longing fMily will have some in 8 days! I cannot wait and will post with the result!!
    Thank you.
    Ghada

    1. Oooh I hope you like…I’m almost nervous now:) You know, I’ve been working on the amounts of flour to liquid and been getting great results with using 430gr of starter PLUS water to 420gr of flour. I hope this little tip helps you to create the ftira to your family’s delight. Thank you for your comment…let me know if you need anything

  30. Hi, I lived in Malta when I was a teenager for 3 years, (a very long time ago!) but have never forgotten Maltese bread! For years I searched for a recipe, but only ever found standard white bread loaves recipes with yeast and margarine.

    I have been experimenting recently with sourdough and made a loaf that suddenly gave me a Proustian type flashback. It was made with a sourdough starter and I had the oven too hot and it almost burned.

    So that turned on a light switch and I thought Oh, Maltese bread is sourdough! And that’s how I came here!

    What I would like to ask and anyone else is, do you know where Malta imports its flour from? My research into sourdough has shown me that it is not the natural yeasts in the air so much as the natural yeasts in the flour that grow in the starter. I’m wondering if their flour is from Italy?

    Thanks, Elisabeth

    1. You know, that is a good question and I have asked myself many times. I don’t live there anymore but I will ask my family to hopefully find out for us. I just know that I never got good results with using regular unbleached flour…and it was only until I tried using hi gluten flour to get Maltese type ftiras that I realised it has to be strong flour. Since Malta joined the EU, it might be that they use Italian Flour…but I will ask and get back to you…thank you for your interest and I hope you get your desired bread when you make your loaves…

      1. Hi Georgina, Wow, thanks for that amazingly quick reply. I did some google research before I found your blog, and on the site of one baker, called Nenu The Artisan Baker, at

        http://www.nenuthebaker.com/about-us/nenus-vision

        I found the following information. He says he uses 60% strong American flour and 40% soft European flour. See below.

        My memories are from 50 years ago, but very clear. The loaves were dark brown, with almost burnt patches on them (that’s why when I burned my sourdough, I had a taste flashback), and kind of dusty. Now that I bake a lot of bread, I think that means they were dusted with flour before baking. When you tore them open, there were large holes in them. I remember seeing workmen pulling the loaves apart and squeezing tomato puree on them. The inside was a kind of creamy pale brown, and I remember a sort of caramelly taste. They were very chewy. They arrived in big baskets on the back of a donkey. We lived on the sixth floor. What everyone did was, they put the money in a basket, then let the basket down on a rope. The breadman took the money, put loaves in the basket and we pulled them up. Ah, nostalgia.

        My father also spent some years in his childhood in Malta, and went to a Maltese school. It was only when I started researching Maltese food a few years that I realised that some of the food I had been eating all my life and just thought was English food, was in fact Maltese. A couple kinds of soup, and a sort of pie made with macaroni, and a sort of boiled meat sausage thing — I found them all in the Caruana cookbooks, along with a kind of sweets my father made every year and put in small decorated boxes for Christmas. They were dates stuffed with a kind of fondant, pale pink and pale green or blue I remember.

        So I don’t know what kind of flour they would have been using fifty years ago. Maybe today’s hobz tastes different!

        From the site:
        The Maltese bread is made by a system of sour dough, or mother dough, inherited from one days’ dough to the next and it is made from American, high-gluten, hard-wheat flour mixed, approximately, in a 60:40 proportion with European soft wheat, salt, water and yeast. The taste of the bread is largely dependent on the recipe and less on the type of oven – timing is crucial to the extent that even the seasons affect the final product. The traditional ‘forn tal-ġebla’, or stone oven, involved direct fire using wood or kerosene, whereas the modern deck-oven uses kerosene to heat distilled water running in tubes along the decks. Nenu accentuates the fact that modern oven involves far less manual labour to clean, and is also more hygienic.

        Elisabeth

        1. Elizabeth reading your post brought back wonderful memories for me as well. The stuffed dates that you spoke of were made in our house also coloured red and green. Red ones had anisette in the almond paste filling (stop for the kids) and the green ones were just almond paste ( go or ok to eat). Thanks for the memories! I have made them to share with my children also. Diana

  31. Oh my goodness…Elizabeth!! Your description of your childhood memories is soo vivid, that I could see it in a movie in my mind! I especially liked how you used to buy your bread…it was so typical to do that in those days…I even remember that. We were on the first floor (not ground floor) and we also used to lower the “qoffa” with the exact change and bring up produce or bread or whatever was being sold in the van:)

    So I shared your question on https://www.facebook.com/Maltesefood and was hoping somebody had the answer. So far I do not see this but it seems that you got your answer elsewhere.

    My recipe will not yield the exact result of what you describe, but it is the closest I have come to as I too have been experimenting with different recipes and flours etc… I hope you like the recipe if you end up trying it.

    Thank you so much for the informative reply…I totally enjoyed reading the whole article of the link you shared. Thank you soo much for stopping by…

    You reminded me of a friend who’s name was also Elizabeth from back in the day. Hmm…I wonder 🙂

  32. Thanks again, Georgina! I had no idea there was a Facebook page for Maltese food. Needless to say I went straight there.

    Since finding Tal-Forn, my mind has been buzzing with memories, especially food memories. I remember another bready thing. It was a bit like pizza but it was square and I seem to remember that the base was quite thick, and the topping was quite thick too. Do you know what this is? The description is a bit vague, but I think it was tomatoey and had for me at the time a ‘different ‘ taste. Perhaps some unfamiliar spice?

    Elisabeth

  33. I’m so happy to make your acquaintance Elizabeth and that I was the link to help you find more Maltese Recipes. I am absolutely stumped about this pizza like dish you mention. But if there’s a place where you can find help, it would be https://www.facebook.com/Maltesefood. I would put your question on there and watch as the replies come flooding in 🙂 This is going to be on my mind for the rest of the day now…I really wish I knew what it is you remember. Please come back here and let us know when you find out.

  34. Arghhh…
    I’m so so disappointed.

    I have been waiting for the starter to grow nicely (it has, it smells delicious: a mixture of cider, apples and a faint whiff of alcohol so I can tell it is fine. )
    I bought the freshest yeast.
    I kneaded for 15 minutes till I had no strength left in my hands. Prepared the dough. It grew wonderfully. Smelled great.

    And it is nothing like ftira 🙁
    I somehow must have missed the information that it doesn’t work without a bread machine. Or maybe in my extreme excitement I decided to ignore it. I don’t know.
    But I confirm – it does not work without a bread machine.

    The bread resembles cake in all but taste. The inside is not leathery like the ftira but soft and “cakey”.

    Is there no hope but getting a bread machine?
    I will try to find a picture of your bread machine somewhere on the site.
    Thank you for the recipe all the same – the anticipation gave me a lot of pleasure and enjoyment too! 🙂
    Best.
    Ghada

  35. And how do I get the huge holes in my ftira? Mine are tiny just like in cake.
    How oh how do I relive that taste?
    Surely in the days of ole’ bakers didn’t have bread machines?:)

    Ah. I will keem trying.
    Thank you, Georgina!

    1. Oh I feel for you Ghada…so sorry that this recipe did not work out for you. There was a time where my bread machine broke and I tried to make this without and I was just as disappointed as you so I do feel your pain.

      The other thing I need to tell you is that if you’re looking for the leathery outcome, I don’t think this is the recipe for you either. This makes gorgeous bread…light and airy and super tasty…but no leather 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the process though and that at least you now have a nice starter to go to…(me too, love the smell of that starter:)…and the only thing I can say is maybe you can try my friend Karl’s recipe…since he makes his ftira without a bread machine and has great results every time. http://karl0415.blogspot.com/2013/04/ftira-maltese-flat-bread.html#.VFO9FIvF-fM

      I hope this helps and good luck all the way Ghada!!

      1. Georgina.
        Thank you so much for your for your warm comment and the other recipe. I will try this once we’ve eaten th bread I’ve baked. It’s still tasty of course and my husband who has never tried the real thing says it’s great.
        Thank you again!
        Ghada

        1. How to get holes

          After your dough has risen, do not punch it down. Manoeuvre it carefully into your tin, or shape gently into a round, as much as possible keeping the dough inflated. It will go down a bit. The final proof will not take long.

  36. Hi!
    This recipe sounds fantastic! I’m keen to try it but I don’t think my breadmaker has the capacity to mix the listed wuantities in the recipe.

    Can I do the mixing with a kitchen mixer using a dough hook? Will I then need to prove the dough for a longer period of time?
    Thanks for the great article$

    1. Hi Sonya

      I do not recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe. I have tried it, and other people have tried it this way and the results are sad 🙁 If your machine does not have the capacity, I suggest halfing the quantities…you should have good results this way as I have a friend who halfs it all the time with excellent outcome. Good luck 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for getting back to me do quickly Georgina! I suspected the mixer may be s problem. Can’t wait till my starter is ready so I can bake a nic ftira for Hobz biz-Zejt! Yummm.

    1. Hi Georgina I attempted your great recipe but I had a few questions.
      1.How wet should the dough be after it comes out of the BM? Mine was ‘wet’ like a focaccia dough and made forming quite difficult.
      2. Do you use a pizza stone? If so what’s the best procedure to transfer the dough to a hot stone?

      I did make the recipe a second time but modified it by doing 1:1 Spelt and White. I didn’t form it because it was difficult to handle due being ‘wet’. The result was amazing! Thanks for your time!

      1. My dough is not that wet that you can’t handle it. It comes out beautifully for me. Did you use grams to weigh your ingredients? It usually comes out perfect every time for me. I do use a pizza stone when I make the dough into pizza and I usually form it on parchment paper and slide it off onto the stone. I hope this helps

    1. It is not a mistake actually. Cups are not a consistent measure so if you use cups, you have to keep an eye in the initial stages of the bread machine cycle and if it’s too dry, add more water, if it’s too wet, add more flour. For me it proved to be a niusance to have to wait and then still not have the desired loaf. So I did a series of batches with different amount of flour to water and I found that 420g of flour to 430g of water+starter ALWAYS gave me the ideal ftira. I hope this helps

  37. Next question…how do you restart the starter, when it seems dead?..I keep it in the oven….and once water floated to the surface……I add..I Tbsp each of Water and High Protein Flour.

    And how how to you keep a hard crust, after cooling? Mine tends to go soft.

    Thank you

  38. You’re feeding the starter fine. I think some people feed twice a day…some even add about a 1/4 -1/2 tsp sugar to the starter once in a while. The hooch (when the water rises to the top) is ok…just stir it back in.

    The bread does go soft. I do tend to leave it out to cool down for a couple of hours just to obtain a bit of hard crust. You can bake it for longer but it will eventually soften. So instead, when it’s close to dinner or I fancy a crusy sandwich, I just stick it in the oven for a few minutes…3-5 mins tops. And it comes out like freshly made.

    I hope the recipe works out for you…

  39. HI i would like to make the ftira but i do not have a breadmaker can i still mix this in a akenwood mixer and thank you for all the rescipies

    1. Hi Frank,

      I actually do not recommend this to be made by a stand mixer. I’ve tried several times but it did not come out right. You can always try I suppose…maybe you’ll have better luck.

  40. I tried this starter….I have no success with it. It comes alive initially…then it sort of dies down slowly….very cold here , but I store in oven……..

    My son, is a firm believer in starters…and he never ever had any prob with it.,….either I must be doing something wrong…or I don’t know…..

    1. Hi Percy

      So the thing with starters is you’re supposed to throw away a quarter cup and add a quarter cup of flour and a quarter cup of water everyday. (I believe that is the ratio you’re supposed to throw away) I am stingy and don’t always do it. I believe if you do that, you’ll see that your starter will be active. For me it depends how many times I use it. If I use it regularly like every day or every other day, I don’t have enough to throw away. But if I use it once a week, then I do find a need to throw some away. I hope this helps

        1. I am glad. I really don’t go with the science of baking bread and just do what works for me. But with this recipe, I love it so much that I had to share. I hope you like it Percy

  41. I made this bread a couple of years ago for a Maltese friend who was pining for hobz. I surprised him with it, and the look of bliss on his face was wonderful. He assured me it was just like home. And with the bread machine I was afraid it wouldn’t be. I’ve just now searched the internet for *this* recipe because now *I* am craving it, and had to have this one recipe that’s been vouched for. 😉 Thanks!!

    1. Welcome back Diana…I remember you 🙂 I’m so happy that the bread turned out as good as your friend expected. And because of him, now you like it too! Since your last visit, I did a bit more experimenting and now added the ingredients in grams which makes it even easier to make as you never have to second guess if it’ll be too dry or too wet…it’ll always come out perfect. Enjoy:)

    1. You’re so welcome…it makes me happy to see so many using this recipe. It has made me many friends 🙂 I hope you have success with it.

  42. I am looking forward to trying this. Can I make it without a bread machine? I am new to bread making. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    1. I wish I can say I had good results when I made it without a bread machine but I can’t. I tried it multiple times and the bread was very disappointing. You can always try it and see. If you do try it, please let me know how it went. Thanks

  43. Many thanks for the Hobz recipe. I have tried a few over the years with limited success. I did mix the dough in a Kitchen Aid, otherwise followed the recipe. Divided the dough into two. Baked in a ‘Dutch Oven’ the first rose well, the second less so, probably because I failed to let the temp rise sufficiently. Regardless the texture, chewiness and taste of the loaf was excellent. Practice will Imhope make perfect.

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