Moving right along in Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, bread #2, still in the "A"s, is Artos, Greek Celebration bread. Reinhart gives a general-celebration version, and elaborations on the theme for Christmas and Easter, each incorporating a different set of fruit and nut add-ins.
The first yeast bread I ever made was a celebration bread, in November 2008. My success with Dorie Greenspan's Kugelhopf (and the instant yeast that I used in it) planted the germ that incubated into full blown yeast fever once the calendar turned to 2009. In the past 6 months, I've made a variety of celebration breads: stollen, kugelhopf (different recipe), hot cross buns, and Italian Dove Bread. We've never been able to finish a batch before it goes stale, so I put it in the freezer. There are so many celebration breads up there, I'm pretty sure there's always a party going on when I close the freezer door!
Because of this surfeit of fancy fruited bread in my life, I planned to make a partial recipe, bake a small loaf for us to taste and a larger one to give to a friend, and call it a day. But, enter Kayte, who is journeying through the BBA Challenge with me in the Slow & Steady sub-group, and who announced that she was going to make all three of the Greek Celebration variations (read her post!). That works for her, because she has a houseful of boys and their friends, all of whom are voracious eaters and don't gain an extra ounce besides what is needed for growing, naturally. Even though our house has just two middle-aged folks (and two middle-aged dogs), I was inspired to try the different shaping techniques. I skipped the boule and went straight for the fun stuff: the Lambropsomo and the Christopsomos, known affectionately as the braid and the octopus (do you see the resemblance?) Any of the loaves can be topped with a traditional honey citrus glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
- The rich dough, aromatic spices, and dried fruit and nuts that I've used in all of the previous celebration loaves gave me a certain confidence when I approached the Artos, although Reinhart's method is different.
- Reinhart's Artos formula uses a poolish, a particular type of pre-fermented dough. Equal amounts of flour and water and just a touch of (instant) yeast are mixed up, and allowed to ferment until the following day. Other ingredients are then added to this bubbly poolish to make the final bread dough.
- I made half a recipe of the poolish, which yielded enough for two small batches (3/4 size) of Artos.
- For the final dough in each batch I used SAF Gold yeast, which is specially formulated for sweet rich doughs. The dough also has a combination of spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and extracts: almond and lemon.
- This bread is traditionally baked for the Greek Easter celebration. It is a braided loaf that traditionally includes red-dyed hard boiled eggs tucked among the strands of the braid. I figured if I were going to make this bread, I was going to do it right! So I dyed a couple of eggs for the bread.
- I divided my dough and made 2 braided loaves, each with a red egg. As the recipe instructed, I placed the egg into the braid before the final rise. By the time the loaf was ready to go into the oven, red dye had run onto the surrounding bread dough. Even more dye bled while the bread was baking in the oven.
- Although I had measured out the fruit and nuts to add to the bread, I totally forgot to mix them in until I was halfway through shaping the loaves. I left one loaf plain (had already braided it ) and hastily worked some fruit into the other one before braiding. I used golden raisins, dried cherries, and toasted chopped walnuts (which are actually the preferred fruits for the other version of Artos - the Christopsomos)
I proved to myself that my braiding technique needs more practice!
These slices are from the plain braided loaf.
- The loaves turned out to be a fair size; it was hard to believe that each was half of a 3/4 batch of dough. To see the size of one full recipe-sized braid visit Cathy's post, Di's post, or Caitlin's.
- I gave one Lambropsomo braid to a dear friend, B. She is getting her master's degree in divinity, and I knew she would appreciate receiving a traditional Easter bread while it was still in the liturgical Easter Season. I was hesitant to give the loaf because of the mess from the red dye, but I had already promised it to her (and she really didn't mind it). B had a fabulous suggestion for the next time: bake the bread with an undyed hard boiled egg, then after baking, substitute the red egg for the plain. Genius! There's a reason she's in that high-powered academic program!
- This loaf is traditional for Christmas, and is shaped as a round loaf, or boule, with a curly-ended cross across the top.
- For this batch, I used nearly 1/3 white whole wheat flour, along with a bit of white all purpose flour and the white bread flour.
- I separated out 1/4 of dough and used the monkey bread technique, with 3/4 oz balls in a mini loaf pan. To see a full-size monkey-style Greek Celebration loaf, see Wendy's post.
- With the rest of the dough, I made the traditional Christopsomos shape, which required the dough to be shaped into a round boule before rising, and some dough reserved in the refrigerator for forming the curled cross just before baking the bread. This was my first boule, ever, and I tried to maintain the bread's surface tension. I might have let it rise a bit too long, as a rip developed in the top of the boule. The dough also ripped in holes around the nuts and fruit, especially in the cross pieces.
- My Christopsomos ended up being approximately half the size of a full recipe's loaf (mine was 3/4 of 3/4 recipe). Audrey's post shows two loaves approximately the size of my one. For a full size octopus, see Natashya's!
- This time I remembered to add the fruit and nuts to the dough at the correct time. I again used golden raisins, dried cherries and toasted walnuts.
- Once cooled, I popped the Christopsomos into the freezer. When my book group day rolled around I thawed the Christopsomos and made the glaze for it. I warmed the bread, thinking that it would help the glaze sink into the bread, but I think the reheating might have dried out the bread. Nonetheless, it was still good, especially with brie and honey.
- I made French toast with leftover Christmopsomos, and used the extra glaze as syrup on top.
This bread had a soft, tender crumb with understated sweetness and spice. It was less cake-y and more bread-y than some of the other celebration loaves that I've baked. I enjoyed trying the different methods of shaping the dough - I learned that I need lots more practice with braids and boules. But the bread is worthy of celebration!