Hopi Traditional Piki Bread
by Debi Lander - bylanderseafood.blogspot.com
Piki bread is a traditional staple of the Hopi people and the ancient New Mexico Pueblo peoples. The dry, thin rolled bread truly melts in your mouth and tastes delicious. The technique used to make the featherweight thin bread is difficult to master and has been passed down from mothers to daughters for generations. I had the privilege of watching Iva Honyestewa make the authentic recipe in her own piki house on the Hopi lands in Arizona.
Piki takes several days to make from scratch but Iva started her preparations beforehand by grinding blue cornmeal down to a fine powder and obtaining culinary ash from burnt juniper trees.
She began by lighting a fire of cedar wood below her stone cooktop.
Then, she mixed the greyish blue cornmeal with hot water and added the ash through a fine sieve. The mush looked a bit like sticky play dough, but she continued adding more water to make it thinner. Iva eventually used her hand to finish mixing. Next, she brushed her stone with oil (traditionally oily sheep brains) and ran her hand on top to check the heat.
The thin batter is then hand smeared over the stone into a translucent layer. Iva repeatedly dipped her fingers in the batter to cover any holes and smooth out the layer.
The batter bakes instantly and in a very short time becomes dry enough to lift or peel off. Iva then transferred the near weightless cooked sheet of bread to her table.
When three or four wafer thin layers are baked and stacked, they are folded and wrapped together. If necessary, they are placed back on the stone for a few seconds to reheat before folding.
The finished roll is placed in the basket. The entire recipe will require about 3-4 hours work to complete.
If you are lucky enough to visit the Hopi Lands, you might find this totally unique and mouth watering bread for sale. I noticed some at the Hopi Cultural Center on the Second Mesa while on exploring with Micah Loma'omvaya of Hopi Tours.