Christopsomo, or Christ's Bread, is considered a sacred tradition in many Greek Orthodox homes. The bread is often decorated with pieces of dough formed into representations of the family's life. Time doesn't include proofing time.
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water (105F)
- 1 cup warm red wine
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup orange juice
- 1⁄4 cup brandy
- 2 oranges, zest of, grated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cups raisins
- 1 1⁄2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄3 cup pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 walnuts, whole and unshelled
- sesame seeds
- Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of flour, stir until dissolved and set aside for 10 minutes, until it bubbles.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the salt with 2/3 of the flour.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, the remaining warm water, and the wine.
- Mix until a soft dough forms, cover with waxed paper and a damp towel, and set aside to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
- Punch the dough down and knead for several minutes until any air pockets are gone.
- Sift in the remaining flour, add the oil, orange juice, brandy, and grated orange peel.
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts, anise, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until blended, and add to the dough.
- Knead well until the dough is firm and doesn't stick (about 10 minutes), cover, and allow to rise for 1/2 hour.
- On a lightly buttered baking pan, shape the bread into two circular loaves, about 8 inches in diameter.
- Cover with a dry cloth and a damp cloth over that, and place in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in size.
- Using a floured knife, score a cross into the top of the loaves, and place one whole, unshelled walnut at the center. Brush the bread with milk and scatter with sesame seeds.
- Place a pan with at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450°F
- Place the bread in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove the pan with the water, reduce heat to 390F and bake for another 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, brush lightly with water, and cool on a rack.
- Decorate Your Christmas Bread: After the second kneading, pull a fistful of dough from each loaf. Pat the dough back into shape to rise. When risen, use the small pieces of dough to create designs. Make them into the shapes of your choice and place on top of the loaves. Continue with the recipe.
As the name implies, this is a festival treat: there are too many flavors in the mix for an everyday staple. Mixing and proofing technique dates back to a time when unpasteurized wine would have provided the yeast, and could probably be streamlined somewhat given that dry yeast is used. Adding more liquid to dough that had already formed, and then mixing in all the nuts and raisins, can be an effort; of course, if you're making it for family Christmas, that's a labor of love. Finally, trying to accommodate the pan of water that simulates a brick oven, I placed mine too close to the upper elements and it came out pretty dark, so in the future I'll bake it fifty degrees cooler than instructed or arrange the oven differently. All said and done, this is a delicious treat, robust and filling, festive and rustic all at once. Made for Zaar World Tour 9.