I was so excited when Susan of Wild Yeast posted that she was going to be hosting this current BBD, and I was also thrilled that the theme was celebration breads. That excitement didn’t last long though. I sat there for a while and thought about the different celebrations that I’ve been a part of. There were no breads that made a regular appearance, unless you count white sandwich bread, but that was merely a celebration of lunch time at school. There really was nothing that I could say was a heritage bread or a “from my grandmother’s family” bread… I come from a long line of non-cooks. If anything was baked, it was baked by Publix, or Nature’s Own. I liked that Susan had baked Hot Cross Buns for her entry. That got me thinking of a holiday celebration bread, even if it wasn’t my own. I liked the idea of a Pannetone, but I didn’t want to spend the 85 days doing it just as we were coming into spring. So I started to look into Easter breads, or spring celebration breads, and actually found a good number of them out there. **please see the second recipe in this post for my actual “submission” to this BBD - it was much better**
I made two breads, the second one coming out much better than the first. But it still wasn’t to its very best because I was a little rushed and really thought in my heart that it had final-proofed enough. Oh my was I wrong…
The first bread I made came from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible, and is the Alpine Easter Bread. This definitely resembled more of a cake in flavor (a little flat in that area, though), but ultimately looked like a giant hamburger bun. Seriously. See for yourself.
I thought that this had baked plently long enough as well. But it was very dense and moist inside… definitely underbaked.
If you can not think of this as a hamburger bun, then it actually looked quite pretty sitting upon the cake stand. The glaze, which was just powdered sugar and lemon juice was fabulous against the crisp crust. I didn’t have lemon extract on hand, so I added a whole lemon’s worth of juice to the dough, and added about a tsp of almond extract just ’cause. I think it really NEEDED the lemon extract - it definitely needed more punch. I think orange extract would’ve been fabulous here, too.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes one 10-inch round loaf
1/2 cup milk
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast (I did 1 tbsp instant)
2/3 cup sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I did bread flour)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
(I added the entire juice of one lemon)
1 1/2 tsp salt (I used fine natural sea salt)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I did vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp lemon extract (I did almond extract, since I added the lemon juice)
For the Nut Liquor Glaze: (I didn’t do this - just a lemon juice and powdered sugar glaze)
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2-3 tbsp nut liquor such as Pistacha, Amaretto, Frangelico, or Nocino
10 whole toasted, chocolate-coated almonds, for garnish.
1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter. Heat until the butter is melted. Let cool to 105-115F, about 20 minutes.
2. Pour the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
3. In a large bowl using a whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the remaining sugar, lemon zest and salt. Add the yeast and milk mixtures, eggs, and extracts. Beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, on low speed until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if mixing by hand.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is soft and springy, about 3 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tbsp at a time as needed to prevent sticking. The dough should not be dry. If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 2-3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy and springs back when pressed. If desired, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand.
5. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Do not rush this dough, as the full rising time is important to develop flavor and texture.
6. Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape into a smooth, round loaf. Grease a 10-inch (I only had a 9″ on hand) springform pan or a 10-inch round cake pan 4 inches deep. Place the dough in the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temp until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake 50-60 minutes (or a LOT more in my case, and it still wasn’t done) or until brown and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. Transfer the loaf from the pan to a cooling rack. Place the rack over a plate or a sheet of wax paper to catch the drips.
8. To prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Adjust the consistency of the glaze by adding hot water a few drops at a time as needed. Drizzle the glaze over teh warm loaf, letting it drip down the sides. Stud the outer edge with whole almonds, if desired. The glaze will set as the loaf cools.
Ooookay… now for my real entry: This bread was amazing in every way. Taste, texture (even the dough was something to behold), color, GIRTH. This is the Artos Greek Celebration bread by Peter Reinhart in his BBA book. I’m not Greek, but I know they make good stuff, and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand which tickled me. Especially ’cause the hamburger bun was made the day before, and I needed something good to come out of the oven this time. Let me first say this… I have never touched dough so luxurious. I wanted to make sheets out of it and sleep on it. Yes, I’m serious.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the right side of the bread is nicely scored, and left side is, well, round. You see… I followed the recipe to the letter. I was certain that this would be my all-time best creation (and it really was - just not in the looks department). This recipe not only calls for sourdough starter, but instant yeast as well. And although that set off alarm bells in my mind, I wasn’t quite prepared. I thought I had given enough time for the final proof. I was starting to get concerned that I may not make my dinner plans if it kept on rising, and I felt fairly certain that it had at least doubled in size while there. So I score it, throw it in the oven with a little bit of steam, and get started on making the glaze. Its looking awesome right off the bat. I check on it again about 10 minutes into baking, and to my horror, the loaf split from basically the north pole to the south pole, right along my left most slash. No beauty contests for you, my friend. I was feeling particularly frustrated with this BBD when I saw that, but I decided that I could at least dress it up nicely, and cut it in half and serve each half to unsuspecting friends/coworkers. The reviews were out of this world. I had cut a little wedge for myself and knew immediately that this could not stay in the house.
I gave half of it to one of my best girlfriends who is Greek, as I thought she may really appreciate this bread. She sounded so convincing when she said that this was truly the best celebration bread that she’s ever had. She (Christina) said that this was probably because it was so fresh - I delivered it to her only hours after coming out of the oven.
The other half went to work, and was completely devoured by 9am. I received so many compliments on it - I really think that this would be a fabulous bread to accompany any holiday gathering, and would be really great braided. The loaf it self was almost 14″ in diameter on the long end, and about 12″ on the shorter end. It really was quite massive.
Artos, from Wikipedia, says “Artos: (Á????, “leavened loaf”) refers to a loaf of leavened bread that is blessed during services in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. A larger Artos is baked especially for use at Pascha (Easter), smaller round loaves (used five at a time) are blessed during the All-Night Vigil in a ritual called Artoklasia.
Artos in the Greek language once referred to any sort of leavened bread, but in Modern Greek now only refers to bread used in church.
This bread is the parent bread for a lot of different Greek celebration breads, according to PR, with christopsomos at Christmas, vassilopita which is served on New Years Day, and the Easter bread - lambropsomo (also called tsoureki). It seems that the breads deviate when it comes to additives (dried fruits, nuts), different toppings, and most obvious, shape.
Now for the recipe!
1 cup starter (100% hydration) or poolish
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp minced orange or lemon zest, or extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
1/4 olive oil
3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk, lukewarm (~90F)
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp orange or lemon extract (I did a squirt of lemon juice and a tiny bit of almond extract)
1. Remove the measured amount of barm (starter) from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. (If using poolish, make it the day before.)
2. Stir together the flour, salt, yeast, cinnamon nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the barm or poolish, the extracts, eggs, honey, oil, and milk. Stir together with a sturdy spool (or mix on low speed with a paddle attachment) until the dough forms a ball.
3. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more milk or flour as needed to form the dough into a soft, but not sticky, ball. It should be tacky and very supple (it really was). Knead (or mix) for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81F.
4. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough at room temp for 90 minutes or until it doubles in size.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a boule. Transfer it to a sheet pan that has been lined with baking parchment. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
6. Proof at room temp for 60-90 minutes, or until the dough nearly doubles in size. (**make sure this happens**)
7. Preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
8. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 20-25 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and registers 190F. It should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. You may glaze the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven, if desired.
9. To make the glaze, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the honey and extract and turn off the heat. Reheat the glaze, if necessary, before applying it to the bread. Brush the loaves with the glaze and immediately sprinkle with sesame seeds.
10. Transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.
**Your house will smell incredible**