Archive for December, 2010

Well, this may seem irrelevant as it is Greek Christmas bread and Christmas was two days ago, but it looked too good to wait another 362 more days.

Christopsomos, Christ’s Bread, plays an essential part of Christmas in Greece. Greek celebration breads are generally called Artos, but are given specific names and shapes depending on their corresponding holiday. Specialty holiday breads include Lambropsomo is the Greek Easter Bread topped with hard-boiled eggs and Vassilopita which is the New Year’s bread which has a hidden gold coin. Key differences between these breads use different fruits, have different shapes, and various additions associated with the holiday.

Peter Reinhart’s Cristopsomos is topped with a traditional cross. Other variations of this Christmas bread are decorated with pieces of dough which represent family in symbols or in cut outs of animals. Cristopsomos is a sacred Greek Orthodox bread, which is often times blessed by a priest. This bread is such a rarity that baker’s splurge on expensive, luxurious  ingredients like dried fruits, spices, and nuts.
Authentic spices include mahleb and mastic, but these are difficult to find in America. Mahleb is a spice made from the pits of dark cherries from the Mediterranean area. It is fragrant, nutty, and a bit bitter tasting.  Mastic is the hardened sap from a tree, and is ground and used for its ceder-like taste.

It begins with a poolish overnight, which adds more flavor to the bread. The next morning,  the dry ingredients are mixed, and then the poolish and the wet ingedients are added. This bread is an enrcihed bread, meaning it contains honey, oil and eggs. The texture should be soft, and the flavor should be rich and slightly sweet, much like a challah.

After the ingredients are mixed, the dough is needed until soft and supple. This was initially sticky, but after some added flour and some kneading (about ten minutes!) the dough was soft. I kneaded in cranberries, walnuts, and raisins to the dough.

I let the dough rise once for about an hour, and then divided it into thirds. One third serves the purpose of the cross, while the other 2/3 is shaped into a boule. The “cross” dough is put into the refrigerator. I let it rise for the second time for about an hour and a half, until it was double in size. However, I left to go to my friends house, so I put the dough in the fridge overnight, to retard the yeast and would allow me to have time to bake the next day.

In the morning, I took the dough out to warm up. After it became room-temperature, I took the third of the “cross” dough and cut it in two. I rolled each piece into a long snake, rocking my hands back and forth, elongating it into a ten inch rope. I placed the ropes in an X shape over the boule. With the ends that hung over the bread, I cut them in half, and curled the dough into a spiral. Mine kind of look deformed, but Peter’s look brilliant, and make it a very beautiful bread.


The dough is baked until it reached 190F and a deep golden brown. Immediately after it is taken out of the oven, I brushed over a glaze consisting of water, dissolved sugar, honey and lemon extract. The glaze made the loaf glisten, and made the crust sticky, and I sprinkled over sesame seeds.

The bread was delicious! It has been one of my favorite breads that I’ve ever made. It’s sweet-it tastes of warm spices and lemon, has a nice chew from the glaze and the dried fruit, and the crunch of the seeds and nuts. Mine wasn’t beautiful-my swirls looked pretty unappetizing, but, I will definitely make this again, and hopefully, I will improve at making Christopsomos.





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This is the first recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and the first recipe I am tackling for both Baking Across Country and my W.I.S.E project!

Anadama bread is originated in Rockport, MA, and dates back to at least 1915. Not just a localized specialty, Anadama bread is associated with the entire New England area.

So the story goes- Anadama bread was named after an angry fisherman’s wife, Anna, who made corn and molasses porridge for her husband everyday. Sick of the monotonous mush, he swore at his wife, “Anna, damn her!” as he mixed flour and yeast to his porridge. This fit of fury resulted in the delicious molasses and corn bread we now know as Anadama bread. I don’t know if I believe it, but it makes for a nice story.

Anyway-the recipe. Peter begins his bread with an overnight soak of the coarse cornmeal, attempting to coax more flavor out of the grain. Cross-referencing Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Anadama American Loaf,  I notice a few key differences. CI cooks the cornmeal in boiling water, in order to soften the grain. Milk is also used instead of water, resulting in a more tender loafs.

Peter’s recipe then combines the cornmeal soaker,  yeast, water, and part of the flour together. This is also used to create more flavor and prolongs the fermentation process.

After about an hour, the enriching ingredients are added- in addition to more flour and salt, molasses and butter are mixed in until the dough forms a ball. Then the dough is kneaded until it is no longer sticky, but soft and pliable.  I wanted to do this by hand, at least for the beginning of my W.I.S.E. project, so I could physically feel when more flour need to be added. The windowpane test is used- the dough when stretched between should hold a “paper-thin, translucent membrane”- in order to see if it is kneaded enough.

Afterward, the dough proofs for about an hour, or until it doubles in bulk. Then, the dough rests, is shaped and put into loaf pans, and proofs for the second and final time.

Sprinkled with more cornmeal, the loaves are baked until golden brown, or until the dough reaches about 190F, and let it cool.

It was delicious, with a tight crumb, like a loaf of sandwich bread. It’s slightly sweet, and the cornmeal lends a crunch, although I think  I could have used a finer ground cornmeal.

This  was my first recipe of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge! I just don’t know what I’m going to do with all this bread! I guess all my friends will have some!



Reinhart, Peter. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. 1st ed. . New York, New York: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 58, 108-110. Print.

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I’m not sure how this will work, but in between testing recipes, I will be posting my required journal entries for my W.I.S.E. project in order to condense everything. I hope it does not get confusing.

These posts will most likely not line up with the recipes of the moment. These are research documentation about different aspects of bread baking. Every week, I will update about the experiences from my internship, along with anything I discuss with my mentor, my Spanish teacher, Mr. Esteban.

Here we go!


Shaping and Proofing Loaves

I find it rather funny that everyone in my family plays part of my bread-obsession, and I appreciate their support.  For my birthday and for Christmas, my mother bought me well-respected, well-researched, solely bread cookbooks. She is also ordering me a banneton (brotform) and a lame! I’m very excited to use these new gadgets!

A banneton/brotform is a bentwood willow basket, used to shape bread during the proofing stage of baking. Not only do they shape the loaves, the baskets leave a beautiful flour spirals on the bread’s crust and take away excess moisture on the surface. A banneton is rather expensive and costs about $20 each. However, I believe they are worth the price for the ease of use, and for the visual appeal they lend to the bread.

In Peter Reinhart’s book, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” he suggests to bakeries instead of purchasing expensive bannetons, that they use wicker baskets lined with linen instead.  I think this tip is very economical, especially during mass production. The linen fabric, sometimes used to line a banneton, is called a couche. Mostly, this fabric is used to prevent free-standing loaves to spread or flatten. He recommends that the baker mists the couche with a non-stick spray (like Pam) and then dust liberally with flour. After the shaped loaves are placed on the cloth, the couche is bunched up to make a “wall” to contain the dough.

Although a banneton is not essential, I’m sure it will allow me to make more attractive boules, and make specialty breads that require this type of proofing. Although I do not have a couche, I can use a heavy terrycloth towel instead.

I’ll talk about the lame more in depth in another journal entry about scoring the breads.  A lame is a double edged razor on a stick, used to score the loaves in order for the bread to have “oven spring” and raise to its fullest potential. I hope I can get the hang of using a lame- right now I use a sharp knife, but I’m usually apprehensive and my scorings are sometimes unattractive and ineffective.

Anyway, I’m very excited for these to arrive in the mail! I should bake over break- I’m not really doing much and I have time to tend to dough!

Banneton– A French bentwood willow basket, used for shaping breads during the proofing stage.

Brotform-The German word for “banneton”

Couche– A linen cloth used to proof and retain the shape of free-standing loaves

Boule– French for a ball shaped loaf

Reinhart, Peter. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. 1st ed. . New York, New York: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 34-38, 90-91. Print.

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We’re siblings. We both love food. And we love to bake and cook together. The catch is that we live 3,000 miles apart.We’ve talked about starting a blog for a while now, but it’s always been a passing “Oh, wouldn’t that be cool?” novel idea. Not anymore!

We’ve fawned over Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice for years, oohing over the endless blogs following their adventure through this informative book. We’ve baked challahs, ciabattas, and croissants, baguettes, boules and bagels. Evan has even entered the world of sourdough, making his own starter out in Santa Cruz, CA, and even brought some back to me in NJ! Now it’s our turn to share our journey through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Additionally, for my senior year internship class, I’m interning at a bread bakery in Princeton, NJ, and I’d like this blog to chronicle my experiences in the bakery.

For now, it’ll only be me writing for Baking Across Country because Evan is in Antarctica on an Oceanography mission, and he’s out of commission to bake until February (although he was talking about making a new starter aboard the ship!). I hope I’ll keep everything afloat! (oh, puns.)

I’m very excited to discuss both our successes and difficulties  using the same recipe book. It’ll be very interesting how similar (or different) they turn out!

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