BBA # 2: Christopsomos

For the second bread I am baking from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I chose to make the Christopsomos version of the Artos breads.  The Christopsomos is a Christmas-season bread, filled with dried fruits, and with a cross laminated on top.  The bread can be made with a wild-yeast starter (a barm) or a poolish.  So, the day before I wanted to make the bread, I made the poolish.  I made the mistake of using cold water to mix my poolish, so instead of being bubbly and happy in 3-4 hours, it took around 6-7.  After most of the day had passed, it finally looked like this:

 Christopsomos - poolish

Nice and bubbly and foamy!  Perfect.  I popped it in the fridge to hang out overnight.  I would start the bread the next morning.

The next morning, I pulled the poolish out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before beginning the dough.  I measured out one cup in a bowl.  The texture and color were different; it was whiter and stiffer.

 Christopsomos - poolish, day 2

Meanwhile, I measured my dry ingredients out into one bowl and whisked my wet ingredients into another, so that they both could come to room temperature along with the poolish.  The milk was still rather cold, and I wish I had let it sit out longer before incorporating it with the other wet ingredients.  The coldness of the milk meant I had to knead my dough longer to get it to the proper temperature for proofing.

Christopsomos - wet ingredients

To flavor the bread, I chose orange extract over lemon as I felt the flavor would go better with the dried fruit.  I also chose to use mahlab instead of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Mahlab, also known as mahleb or mahlepi, is a spice traditionally used in Greek, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern cooking.  The whole spices are pits from St. Lucia sour cherries; you can see traces of fuschia staining on the spices from the cherry juice!  Ground, the spice has a delicate aroma of bitter almonds with a distinct floral background.  Very aromatic, it is traditionally used in baked goods and pastries.  You can find an assortment of recipes that use mahlab on my Delicious account.  I was so curious about this unusual spice that I had to find out how it was used.  I stumbled upon it at Penzey’s in Richmond and felt compelled to use it in my bread, but I wanted to find many ways to use the rest.  I could not find ground mastic, so I used the clove substitution for that.

Mahlab collage

After I combined the wet and dry ingredients and mixed them with the poolish, I really had my work cut out for me kneading the bread.  It took me nearly half and hour to get the bread to the right temperature.  I decided I would knead the bread until it registered between 77 and 81º, then attempt the windowpane test.  It failed the first three times, so after each try I kept kneading.  Finally, I got this:

 Christopsomos - windowpane test

You have no idea how hard it is to do that one handed and take a picture without destroying your camera.  Perhaps I am Supergirl?  With a windowpane achieved, I kneaded my toasted nuts and fruit into the dough, oiled a bowl, and transferred the dough to it, reserving one third of the dough in the refrigerator for the cross.  I ended up letting the dough rise for a little over 90 minutes, as it had not yet doubled in size.  I then removed the dough from the bowl and shaped it in the traditional Christopsomos shape of a boule.  I removed the remaining dough from the fridge, rolled it into this cylinders and added the cross with the curled ends.

Christopsomos - shaped dough

If I made this shape again,  I would reserve the dough for the cross before adding the fruit and nuts.  The little lumps made the dough difficult to shape – I kept ending up with walnuts in the dough curls!

I baked this using essentially the same technique I did for the Anadama bread to develop a crust.  I wish I had not.  I started my oven at 450º so that it wouldn’t lose too much heat during the misting, then reduced the temperature to 350º when finished.  This caused my bread to brown too rapidly.  However, due to the application of the cross, the bread baked for much longer than the directions indicated.  After 45 minutes, the center of my bread only registered 140º– nowhere near done.  I baked it for over an hour before it was done.  At that point the bread was very brown and crusty.  I had opted not to make the glaze, because I didn’t want such a sweet bread.  I wish I had made it now, because I think it would have been the little detail that made the bread go from good to excellent.  Next time, I would also likely forego the dried fruits and nuts.  The delicate spice flavoring given to the bread by the mahlab was overwhelmed by the intense flavors.  Not that it wasn’t delicious, mind you.  The bread has a tight crumb and is evenly studded with fruits and nuts.  I’ve really enjoyed it for breakfast, and it would probably make excellent french toast.  I would definitely recommend this bread, but the next time I make it I will opt for a plain loaf, no fruits, no nuts, and plenty of glaze.

Christopsomos - Sliced









Here’s some more yeasty goodness I’m sending over to Yeastspotting.  

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge was developed by Nicole of Pinch My Salt. You can see what we’re baking this week at our Flickr group, on Twitter (#BBA), or check out the challenge page

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45 thoughts on “BBA # 2: Christopsomos

    • Thanks, Dave! Like my “I’m a kneading purist i.e. I don’t own a Kitchenaid,” the one-handed approached is “I’m so coordinatedbecause I don’t own a tripod and don’t know how to use my camera timer.” I am a pro at making the best of a sub-par situation. 🙂

  1. I agree, the fruits and nuts in the strips make it difficult to shape, I had to abandon it and reshaped the strips into a tiny braid.

    Your loaf looks pretty, btw.:)

  2. I had the exact same thought about putting aside the part for decorating before adding the fruit and nuts. It nearly drove me crazy!

    I also had to cover the loaf with aluminum foil towards the end of the baking, otherwise it would have got burnt.

    Very interesting info about the mahleb, I have seen it in a couple of stores here, but never had the guts to try. But now I will!

    • I wish I had thought to cover my bread with foil! Mine got brown very quickly before and I panicked, thinking “crap! it’s got to be in the oven a while longer!” The shaping drove me nuts – those are the fiddly sorts of tasks I am very clumsy at, so I gave up quickly….after eating a few walnuts. I would definitely encourage you to pick up some mahlab, by the way. It is delicious, and you can easily add to any baked goods.

    • I have to say, I am very new to this book – I have never baked any of the recipes in it before! So far, Reinhart gets a 2 for 2. This bread was great – I would definitely make the glaze for it next time.

    • Thanks, Jenny! I couldn’t resist using dried apricots even though they are not a traditional Christopsomos ingredient. i love the flavor and color contrast with the darker dried figs!

    • Peter, that is a real compliment coming from you. I ate this bread for breakfast until it was gone – just like that. I’ll certainly accept status as honourary Greek…even if I only get it for the cooking!

  3. Beautiful! And I’m so impressed at your ability to photograph the windowpane. I’m glad someone tried the recipe with mahlab. It sounds very interesting.

    • Hi Rebecca! Thanks! I nearly destroyed my camera while taking the shot, but now that I’ve got one I’m pretty satisfied. The mahlab was wonderful, and I definitely recommend using it. It would be great in coffee cake.

  4. HI there, thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. Your Greek bread looks very nice. I enjoyed to make this one, I have a piece every morning to eat in my car (yes I have to have breakfast in the car to arrive earlier at work). I keeps very well in the freezer, so if you need to freeze it do it with confidence.
    Good luck with the bagels, they are easy and very good.

  5. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Artos the Greek Celebration Bread

    • Thanks! I am pretty pleased with the shaping – I am usually quite clumsy at these things, and this turned out well. I’m also glad you enjoyed the info on the mahlab; I became fascinated with it. It certainly deserves a more prominent place on the spice rack!

  6. Your pictures were great. I still have not taken any windowpane shots because I am worried about my camera too! Your bread looked lovely. I had a bit of a problem because of the addition of the dough cross. In one place it pulled off in baking and I agree, it seemed to effect the baking of the bread. Because you mentioned “over browning” I did not put my egg wash on till 1/2 way through the baking.

    Keep up the good work!

    Devany, Hilo, HI

    • Hi Devany! I’m glad my post could help you prepare your bread. I am definitely going to skip the cross next time and go with a plain boule. Good luck on your bagels!

  7. I was introduced to mahlab a few months ago and it is really a wonderful spice. I can see how you would want it to shine through in the flavor of your bread. Impressive one-handed windowpane shot!

    • Thanks, Susan! The mahlab is truly wonderful; I am looking forward to including it in some traditional cookie recipes like Kaak and maybe some coffee cakes. Glad you like the windowpane shot!

  8. your bread looks delicious! Thanks most of all for pointing out the mistakes you made, so that the rest of us can learn from them! Now when I finally make it I can consider your suggestions and know the outcome of doing it in a different way.
    p.s. Is this bread related to Stollen in any way? I looove Stollen @ x-mas time! Can’t wait to make some of both types of bread now!

  9. Pingback: YeastSpotting May 29, 2009 | Wild Yeast

    • Thanks, Mary! I am really hoping this series of breads provides a little bit of baking assistance to those out there either making the same recipes or similar breads. This one was delicious, so it will definitely get made again!

  10. Pingback: The Yumarama Bread Blog » Artos: #BBA Challenge Bread No. 2

  11. So many delicious breads, I can’t decide which one I like best :). Your photo tutorials are great too! I always wondered about brioche, for instance :).

    • Thanks, Sophie! For what it’s worth, my favorite so far has been the bagels. I’ve been a bagel lover for quite a while, and the recipe is both easy and perfect. So glad you like the photos; I really want to document the bread making process as much as I can (without covering my camera in flour and dough). 🙂

  12. Pingback: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, Take 2 — Burghilicious

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