There seem to be as many variations of Greek Celebration bread, or “Artos” as there are holidays, each with their own tradition and meaning in both when they are made and the symbology of their ingredients. For the second in the line of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge I chose Christopsomos. My choice was based on aesthetics more than anything, as I liked the decidedly fancy look of it when compared to the plainer, fruitless loaf or the braided Lambropsomo with its red-dyed eggs nestled inside. Having not yet done such a fanciful shape as the Christopsomos presents one with, I was at first intimidated by its complexity. As with all breads one starts with the basics of flour, yeast, water salt. Christopsomos, however, is a highly enriched bread. If it were not for the lack of butter, I would say it has far more in relation with a brioche than your average white sandwich bread. Don’t let the long list of ingredients worry you though, it’s easier than it looks.
Start by combining all of your dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer.
7oz 100% hydration starter, room temperature
1t (.16oz) lemon zest
1t (.16oz) almond extract
2lg (3.3oz) eggs, slightly beaten
1/4C (2.67oz) agave nectar
1/4C (2oz) olive oil
3/4C (6oz) lukewarm milk (90-100F)
Combine your wet ingredients in a bowl together, and then pour into the dry ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low until the dough forms a ball. Change to the dough hook and then knead on Speed 2 (For a KitchenAid) for approximately 10 minutes until the dough is tacky and very supple.
Fruits and Nuts
If you stop with these ingredients you will have the basic “Artos” which is baked in a loaf shape. It is the variation of added fruits and nuts, as well as the shape, that change it to Christopsomos for “Christmas Bread.” During the last 2 minutes of kneading add:
1/2C raisins, any color
1/2C dried cherries, cranberries or chopped figs (or a combination)
1/2C chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Once all ingredients are kneaded together turn your dough out into a lightly oiled bucket and turn to coat. Mark the side of your bucket with tape and lay the lid loosely on top. Allow the dough to ferment until it has doubled in volume, about 60-90 minutes.
Turn your dough out and divide into two portions, one that is 2/3rds of the dough and one section that is 1/3 of the dough. Wrap the smaller portion of dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Shape the larger portion into a round boule, or ball, and place on your baking sheet. Cover lightly and proof until it has doubled in size, again 60-90 minutes, checking at the 60 minute mark.
When your boule has almost doubled, remove your reserved dough from the refrigerator. Divide it in half and roll each piece into a rope that is long enough to cross the boule with a few inches left on each side. Use a dough cutter or sharp knife to split each end of the ropes and then lay them in a cross pattern over the dough. Curl the split ends up so that you have a decorative cross, as below.
To achieve the glossy look you can glaze your dough with a mixture of two parts water, sugar, agave nectar and one part orange or lemon extract. Boil the mixture just long enough to fully dissolve the sugar and honey. Apply the glaze right as the bread comes out of the oven while both bread and glaze are still warm.
Allow your bread to cool for at least an hour before cutting.
Recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Want to see more great Artos and other breads? Take a peek over at Wild Yeast’s YeastSpotting!