Day 11: Greek Christmas Bread
Greece is a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. I love the pictures of Greece that you see of bright white buildings against the background of a cobalt blue sea. I imagine myself sitting on one of those Greek cliffs, basking in the sunshine, eating just caught and cooked seafood, listening to the sea, and sampling all kinds of tasty treats. This fantasy is one that visits me frequently in these winter months when things can be dreary and cold and tiring.
Well, I guess since I can’t go to Greece anytime in the near future, I can try to imagine being there this Christmas with this Christophomos.
I used a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Rhinehart. I have mixed feelings about this book. It gives a really thorough explaination of all the different stages of bread making and has really great technique photos. At the same time, there are some things that irk me, particularly his over simplification of sweet breads as all being more or less the same.
I have thought about the subject of sweet breads quite a bit over the last couple of weeks as I have baked and read and eaten and you know what? They are all really unique. Yes, they may have some common elements. They are all sweetened. They all have generous amounts of fat and eggs. But, if I laid them out on the table before you, you would see that none of them are alike at all. Every dough has been different; from the stiff stollen to the almost liquid panettone, there are no two breads that could be made with the same dough. Because of their different doughs and mixing methods, each dough has a unique texture and flavor.
I think it is important to recognize the special qualities of each bread and each culture that it comes from. There is a history to each bread that makes it special, just as each one of us has a unique set of experiences that makes us special. And yet, all these breads, as well as all those around the world who love these breads are all celebrating the same holiday: Christmas. When I think about this, I am amazed by the tranforming power of bread, food, love and, most of all, Christ. After all, no matter what people say about the pagan origins of the Christmas season, we still call it Christmas, and there would be no Christmas without Christ. And the message of Christ knows no cultural boundaries. It is as relevant and important today as it was centuries ago.
Traditionally, the Christophomos bread has a cross on top of the loaf to represent Christ. This loaf is hefty. It weighed in at just over three pounds, and I made two of them! One I put in the freezer for our annual Christmas brunch with the framily. The other, we cut into right away.
It’s fluffy, has a great elastic texture, and the spices in the dough make it aromatic and delicious. There are bits of walnuts that add a little crunch and savoriness. The husband was the first to say this, but we all agreed. It tastes like a giant hot cross bun! Yes, yes, it does, and isn’t it just fitting to remember Easter at the same time we are celebrating Christmas?