What is Taste of the Past?

Taste of the Past is where I share my love of traditional cookery. Recipes from the days before TV dinners and microwaves right down the ages to the earliest cook books that I can get my hands on. I hope you enjoy my experiments as much as I do. Please share your own ideas, efforts and feedback in the comments.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Christopsomo (Greek Christmas Bread)


 Every place in Greece has its own Christopsomo. 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 mixed fruit.

One of the things that I love about this recipe is that it works really well with gluten free flour.  The only change that you need to make is to bake the bread in a tin.  I used a metal mixing bowl to try and get the traditional shape.
Gluten Free Christopsomo
Traditional Christopsomo, served with thick butter and a cuppa


Ingredients



For the cake:
·         450g strong flour or gluten free flour
·         1 tsp instant dry yeast
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         ½  teaspoon salt
·         200ml warm water
·         50ml olive oil
·         1 tsp ground cinnamon
·         1 pinch ground cloves
·         Grated zest of 2 oranges
·         2 tablespoons honey

For the glaze:
·         1 tbsp icing sugar
·         1 – 2 tbsp water


Recipe 

  • Place the flour into a mixing bowl along with the sugar and salt.
  • Mix them together and make a well in the flour.
  • Pour in 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 up to 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.  The gluten free version might be best mixed with a spoon.
  • 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


Note:  Then making the gluten free version, knock back the dough and put it straight into a well greased tin.  Let is rise until nearly doubled in size and then bake as described below.
  • 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.
  • Leave to cool before cutting and serving.  The orange flavour will develop over a few