I have had a lifelong, long distance love affair with Greece. It has been on my bucket list since I was a tween. At that impressionable age, the thought of poking around the ruins of Knossos Crete was thrilling. It was delicious to daydream about how Theseus and Ariadne solved Daedalus’ labyrinth and vanquished the minotaur. Equally thrilling was the thought of visiting the archaeological site of Delphi and of course the Parthenon. Now, I am more interested in cerulean skies, crystal clear turquoise waters and the bright white rooftops of Santorini on a romantic getaway with just my husband. No noise, silent retreat if you will, except for the thwacking of oktapodi against the rocks.
In my late 20’s I was introduced to Greek cuisine and culture. I loved the flavours, still do and some of Greece’s well known dishes find their way into my monthly menu planning. I remember a meal in Montreal that blew me away. Hours and hours spent at table with friends pouring over platters of grilled octopus with lemon, peppers and ouzo, grilled lamb, briny olives and tangy feta. The wine poured freely and the fellowship was grand.
Fast forward to today souvlaki is a regular on our grill as is pastitsio, homemade flatbreads and calamari. We love vasilopita but had never heard of or seen artos in the form of christopsomos until I bought Peter Reinharts book. I pegged it immediately as a recipe to try early on. The bread is so pretty and I can easily see it gracing our Easter table.
Artos is the same bread dough as Vasilopita, Christopsomos and Lambropsomos. It is an enriched, warmly spiced dough where additions of fruit and nuts are added depending on what season of the church is in. Christopsomos celebrates the Nativity, lambropsomo celebrates Easter and the resurrection and vasilopita is similar to a gallette des rois or king cake and is served around New Years to celebrate the feast of St. Basil.
The bread takes two days to make if using an amount of barm or one day if using a poolish. More on poolish later. I chose to make ours using barm and I chose to do Christopsomos because I loved the stylized cross that graces the top of the bread.
My barm needed 45 minutes to come to room temperature
I needed an extra 30 grams of flour to take my dough from sticky to tacky. I worried a little about the addition of
warm spices because I am not a fan of cloves or allspice, still I followed the recipe as written. For honey I used Red Barn Naturals unpasteurized honey. The dough windowpaned at 7 minutes in my mixer and reached at internal temperature of 81 degrees. The dough needed a full two hours to ferment and double in size.
One thing I learned making this bread is that surface tension matters on shaping the dough. The better the surface tension the better the oven spring when baking. My preferred method is chafing. I loved shaping this bread dough.
What I do not understand about the proofing is why only the boule was to be proofed…the second piece which was used to make the cross was placed in a plastic bag and kept in the fridge for the 1.5 hour proof.
The recipe suggested a 45 minute cooktime to reach an internal temp of 190 degrees. In my oven it took an hour. Our home smelled wonderful from the spices.
I chose to glaze the loaf omitting the orange extract and substituting almond extract only because I am dotty for almond scent and flavour and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
I scored the bread at 16 out of 20 and Chris scored it at 17 out of 20. Full marks on presentation. I am fussy where bread is concerned and I found the glaze softened the crust and made the bread sticky. Chris agreed. For us it would be an excellent breakfast bread, the children loved it. I likely won’t make it again because I am just not a fan of clove or allspice but will use the form with brioche to grace our Easter table.