This is the traditional bread served everywhere in Greece at Christmas. Some families share it out at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and others at dinnertime. Some housewives decorate it with letters formed of dough and others use almonds and walnuts, I have used another traditional decoration, the Greek Cross. Every region, town and indeed family, have their own recipe for this wonderful bread. For a really authentic taste replace the orange zest and spices with a teaspoon of crushed masticha gum and a tablespoon of crushed aniseed. I have also seen recipes based on vanilla, dried cherries or dried missed fruit.
Serve it plain, with your best butter or toasted and spread with chocolate spread for the ultimate choco-orange treat. The flavour of the orange rind really deveops if the bread is left over night.
For the cake:
For the glaze:
Place the flour into a mixing bowl along with the dried, sugar and salt.
Mix them together and then make a well in the middle of the flour.
Into this well, pour all of the warm water and the dried, instant, yeast. Mix a little of the flour into the water to make a thick, porridge like mix. This is the sponge which will give the yeast a good start.
Cover the bowl and leave for around 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. (You can leave this for upto an hour.)
In a small jug, mix together the olive oil, honey, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest.
After half an hour, mix the runny dough into the rest of the flour. This will be very messy to begin with and get progressively harder. I recommend using a wooden spoon.
Once it gets too stiff to mix easily, add the oil and honey mixture.
Now it is time to get your hands messy. Mix the liquid into the dough until well combined.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it gently on the work surface for eight to ten minutes. This is a lovely, soft dough to knead which can mislead you into thinking it needs a lot less work than plain bread.
Once you have a soft dough, place it into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave until it doubles in size. This could take 1 to 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 190 degrees C
Gently knock back the dough and cut off a small piece, about the size of a golf ball. Divide this into two, gently knocking out the air as much as possible. Roll each piece into a sausage about 15cm long. Using a dough scraper, cut the ends of each sausage in half for 5cm. Place these on one side.
Take the main ball of dough and gently knock the air out of it by kneading it twice. Then gently press it into a rough circle with your hands. Then bring the edges of the circle into the middle and press down in the centre. Turn the ball over and roll it against the work surface to form a tight ball.
Place on an oiled baking sheet. Place the two sausages of dough in a cross shape on the loaf. Curl the split ends outwards to form 2 small circles at the ends of the four arms of the cross.
Cover with oiled cling film and leave for half an hour or until nearly doubled in size.
Bake in a hot oven (190 degrees C) for 50 minutes. When you place it in the oven, loosely cover with a sheet of foil. Enriched breads like this one are prone to over browning.
Make the glaze by mixing 1 tablespoon of icing sugar with 1 tablespoon of water to make a very thin water icing.
Check the loaf after 40 minutes and remove the foil if it is very pale. Take the loaf out and gently knock on the bottom to gauge how much longer it needs. Put the loaf back on the baking sheet and brush all over with the icing sugar glaze.
Put back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Recipe for White Bread
Take 1 lb of strong white bread flour
Mix in 1 rounded teaspoon of dried, instant yeast and 1 rounded teaspoon of salt.
Measure just oer half a pint of warm water in a jug.
Make a well in the middle of your flour and pour in the the warm water.
Use a table knife to start gently stiring to mix the flour into the water.
You can use your hands, I always do but for a beginner it can a shock to get so sticky.
Top Tip, just use one hand for the initial mixing, the phone will always ring when you are your most sticky.
Gradually mix all the flour into the water until you have a dough.
Warning, this will not look like the pictures in most books at this point. You now have to knead it.
Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface and turn out your bread dough.
To knead yoru bread you need to hold the side facing you and use the heal of your other hand to push away the other side of the dough. This gently stretches the dough to align the gluten strands.
Fold the front of the dough towards you and role the dough into a thick swiss role.
Turn the dough aroundby 90 degrees and repeat.
You will probably need to knead the dough for about 7 to 10 minutes.
As you work the dough it will gradually get smooth and elastic.
once you are happy with the dough, lightly oil your bowl.
Roll the dough in the oil so that the ball of dough and bowl both get lightly greased.
Cover will a damp tea towell and leave to double in size.
Old recipes suggest leaving somewhere warm for 1 hour, modern recipes suggest leaving somewhere cool for several hours. The longer the bread takes to rise, the better the flavour.
Once risen, turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently knead it again to knock out the air. If you leave in the air bubbles you get big holes in your bread, something you may want for European breads.
To make the bread above I shaped the dough into a ball.
Gently press the dough into a flat square shape, thick, not thin. Then bring each corner into the middle and press down with your thumb. Turn over and use you hands to round out any corners.
Place on a well greased baking tray and cover with a damp tea towel, oild cling film or a large, sealed, plastic bag that won't touch the top of the bread.
Heat the oven to 240 degrees Celsius.
Once the bread has nearly doubled in size, remove the cover.
Use a shape knife to make slashes in the top.
Pop in the oven and bake for around 30 to 35 minutes.
To check if the bread is cooked, take it out of the oven and knock on the bottom. It should sounds hollow.
Leave to cool completely before slicing.
Stottie Recipe 1 lb strong white bread flour 1/4 pint warm water 1/4 pint warm milk (or add cold milk to hot water) 1 tsp salt 1 tsp easy bake yeast flour for dusting and oil for oiling Mix the dry ingredients together Mix the 2 liquids stir the 2 liquids together to make the dough and then knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes Oil the bowl, put in your dough, cover in cling film and leave until doubled in size. Knock back the dough and split into two balls. Roll each into a circle about 1 cm thick Place on a well floured tray and cover with a lot more flour Leave for no more than a few minutes before cooking. It not giving is a second rise that makes it nice and dense. Required oven temp is 220 degrees C for ten minutes. Check after ten minutes and if necessary, turn over the bread, turn the heat down to 200 and cook for another 10 minutes. The aim is for a very soft but dense bread. This is achieved by using milk in the dough, putting a lot of flour on the top and not over cooking. Remember that the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Take a standard white bread recipe (1 lb flour to 1/2 pint water, yeast of your choice, salt and sugar if you need to rehydrate dried yeast) and make as normal.
Then after the first rise flour
your work surface really well and gently tip out your dough onto a work surface.
Don't Knock it Back!!
Very gently cut the dough into six even pieces.
Aim for rectangles but my dough never seems to behave like the text books expect it to so blobs is good enough for me. Gently cut slits in the dough using a dough scraper or similar.
Open the slits out and gently lift onto a well floured baking tray.
Note: this bread does not need a second rise, pop it straight into a hot oven.
Bake at 220 degrees C for around 10 to 15 minutes. This will depend on the thickness of your bread or how well your oven maintains temperature.
This recipe is used on the Mediterranean Bread Course.
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