Christopsomo is a traditional Greek bread served on Christmas. Its name translates to Christ's bread. Beautifully decorated with nuts and seeds, and flavored with spices, and raisins. The texture of this bread is very soft and airy. And its flavor is slightly sweet.
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History Of Christopsomo
Since Ancient Greek times, bread was the main food for Greeks. Found in so many variations sweet and savory ones with all kinds of grains and seeds mixed into it. They even had the first bakeries. So until today, bread is still one of the most cherished foods for Greeks. During many celebrations, there is a special bread made for that day. Christopsomo is the bread that's made to celebrate the birth of Christ.
In the past, it was just a classic bread made with finer flour (better quality). Decorated with a cross on top, that was made out of the bread dough. With the passing of time from the poverty years to the present times, Christopsomo became more of a sweet, lavishly decorated bread with various seeds, nuts, and raisins.
All the decorations on the bread are meant to bring prosperity to the home and family.
Christopsomo is made with bread flour, and a little bit of olive oil. Its dough contains also ground walnuts and raisins. It is flavored with anise, Mahlep, and orange, though many like to add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or cloves to it. On top, it gets brushed with a honey glaze (hot water + honey) that helps the decorations stick on top of the bread. Also gives a nice sweet flavor to the bread.
The decorations on Christopsomo are sesame seeds, a whole walnut, almonds, and cloves. The whole walnut is always added in the center of the cross on top. Symbolizing good luck and prosperity.
How To Make It
Since this is a bread made with yeast it's a quick and easy bread to make. First, you need to soak the raisins in some hot water. And then use this water within the dough. The sugars of the raisins help the dough rise. As the yeast feeds on sugar. Plus it adds a nice subtle sweetness to the bread since the amount of sugar used is very minimum.
Second, make a starter dough using water, yeast, olive oil, sugar, and part of the flour. Use an electric mixer for that with a hook attachment. And beat until you get a smooth and stretchy dough.
Then incorporate the remaining flour and knead the dough by hand. Until you have a soft dough that feels moist but not sticky. Depending on the strength of the flour you are using you may need to dust some extra flour into it.
After the dough is kneaded, let it rest for 15 minutes before adding all of the remaining ingredients (raisins, spices, walnuts, salt). Before you add these to the dough though save a small piece of the dough, separately. To use it to make the decoration on top later on.
Finally, mix the remaining ingredients into the dough. Do this by kneading the dough gently for a few extra minutes. Then place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl with a dampened tea towel, and let rise for 2 hours until doubled in size.
Rise And Proofing Of The Dough
After the first rise of the dough, press it to remove the air. Shape it into a round flattened disk and place it in a 28 cm (11-inch) round pan. Proof the dough by heating your oven to a temperature of 35°C / 95°F. Cover with the tea towel again so the surface won't dry. And let double in size again.
Double-risingresults in smaller crumb, and prevents very large airholes from forming within the bread.
Other Greek Christmas Recipes:
- Isli Cookies (walnut-filled semolina cookies)
- Kourabiethes Cookies (shortbread, almond, snowballs)
- Roasted Pork Shoulder
- Diples (fried pastry rolls with syrup + walnuts)
Freezing And Storing
You can make this bread a few days before Christmas and freeze it until that day. Seal it carefully in a large plastic bag and place it in the freezer. To thaw it remove it from the freezer 5-6 hours before serving.
Or make one day ahead and store in an airtight food container until the next day.
You can even store individual pieces in the freezer by adding them to small freezer bags. You can thaw these in the microwave. Remove them from their bag and microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Christopsomo - Greek Christmas Bread
For The Christopsomo:
- 250 ml (1 cup) hot water
- 370 ml (1 ½ cup) lukewarm water
- 760 grams (5 ¼ cups) bread flour sifted
- 55 grams (⅓ cup) raisins
- 9 grams (1 tablespoon) dry yeast
- 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
- 20 grams ( 2 tablespoons) olive oil
- ½ tablespoon anise crushed
- 1 teaspoon Mahlep powder may use cardamom instead
- 1 orange zested
- 60 grams (½ cup) finely ground walnuts
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons hot water
For Decorating Top:
- OPTIONAL: 1 shelled walnut
- 16 raw almonds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 12 cloves
- Add the raisins to a bowl along with the 1 cup of hot water. Let them soak until the water cools down to lukewarm.
- Strain the raisins and keep them aside in a bowl. Add the raisin water to your electric mixer's bowl.
- Add also the 1 ½ cups of lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, and olive oil, and give it a good stir using a whisk.
- Add 3 cups of flour to the bowl as well. With the hook attachment on your electric mixer, work the dough for about 10 minutes over medium speed. Until the dough becomes smooth and stretchy.
- Transfer the dough to a clean working surface. Gradually add the remaining flour while kneading the dough by hand.
- Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If the dough still feels a bit sticky, add a little bit more flour to it. It should be very soft and come out all in one piece.
- Shape the dough into a round ball and rest at room temperature, covered with a tea towel for 15 minutes.
- Cut a small piece of the dough (weighing about 140 grams) shape it into a small ball and set it aside in a small bowl covered with some plastic wrap.
- In a small bowl mix together all of the remaining ingredients for the Christopsomo (anise, Mahlep, orange zest, ground walnuts, and salt).
- Open and flatten the dough into a disk. Add the remaining ingredient mixture on top. Fold the dough envelope-like. Then shape it into a round ball again and knead it for 5 minutes more. Gently this time until all of the ingredients get mixed thoroughly into the dough.
- Shape the dough into a round ball again. Add a drizzle of olive oil to your palms and rub it all over the dough ball.
- Place in a large bowl cover it with a dampened tea towel and leave it to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. Or until doubled in size.
- Then gently press the dough to remove the air. Flatten the dough into a 22 cm (9-inch) round disk by pressing it gently with your hands.
- Grease a round 28 cm (11-inch) pan with some vegetable oil or cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the pan. Cover with the tea towel and rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 35°C / 95°F.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and let the dough double in size again. About 30 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven.
- Raise the oven's temperature to 180°C / 356°F.
- Take the small piece of dough you saved and press it to remove the air. Cut it into 4 equal-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a 30 cm (12-inch) long cord. Pair the cords to create two double braids.
- Place the first braid right in the center and then cut the other braid in half. Place them in order to create a cross shape.
- Mix together the honey and hot water for the glazing.
- Brush some of the glaze all over the top surface of the dough.
- Add the shelled walnut right in the center of the cross, and press it in. Then decorate each quarter of the cross by sprinkling sesame seeds, adding almonds, and sticking a few cloves.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Then remove from the oven. Gently brush all of the remaining honey water glaze over the top of the bread.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes more. Until deep golden on top.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.
- Once it reaches room temperature you can remove the bread from the pan. To do so, use a spatula and gently lift the bread from one side, then carefully slide it over a serving plate.
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