BBA Challenge #2: Greek Celebration Bread

Next on the BBA Challenge lineup:  Artos, or Greek Celebration Bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  A main recipe plus an Easter and Christmas variation are given:  I made the basic recipe, using the poolish method (as I am still intimidated by starting a barm, though I will have to soon enough if I keep on with the challenge).

The poolish is made the night before, left to ferment on the countertop a few hours, and then refrigerated.  Because I only needed a cup of poolish, I cut the basic recipe down, though I still ended up with 4.5 ounces left over.   (Note I used a scale to measure out the poolish rather than using a volume measure.  I am sure this provided much more accurate results, especially with something like poolish which is “living and breathing” and thus I imagine may have different volume measures depending on how robust the yeast in your mixture are).

Here’s the poolish ready to go in the fridge:  lumpy like pancake batter.

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Here it is the next morning.  I’ve got a closeup of all the air bubbles, but not one showing how much the texture has changed–it’s almost like it’s thick, ropey strands of dough that are clinging to each other, so much so that it slides cleanly out of the measuring jar with just a little prodding from a spoon.

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The poolish is mixed into more flour, yeast, eggs, honey, olive oil, and a heady, aromatic mix of spices and extracts:  nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and orange and almond extracts–truly enjoyable to measure each one out and take in some of the aroma as you add it in. 

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Once again, I didn’t quite achieve the “windowpane” despite longer-than-specified mixing.  And once again, I decided enough is enough and proceeded to set my dough aside to rise. 

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I over-oiled the bowl for the first rise, which made it a bit challenging to form the boule for the second and final rise.  As I tried to pull the dough under to create the nice round loaf shape, it started to seem like a mass of oily tentacles underneath that slipped past each other rather than melding together.  I knew that once it rose it would be OK and the oil would absorb, but in the meantime my bread was not looking too pretty.  I sprinkled some flour on the underside and this fixed the problem.  The bread was set to rise on a piece of parchment paper.

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After it rose (rather mightily, I should add), I scored the top and put it in the oven to bake.

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While it baked, I prepared the optional glaze–I mixed all the ingredients in together at once (water, sugar, honey, orange extract) rather than adding the honey and extract after making the syrup.  This wasn’t a result of a conscious decision but rather not reading the instructions carefully.

Out of the oven, the bread had grown even more–some  serious oven spring!  (Hmmm…maybe my windowpaning wasn’t as deficient as I thought).  The growth was more side to side rather than evenly throughout the loaf, and in particular one side of the loaf grew a little bit too much–I think this is the result of my inexpert formation of the “boule” loaf (you are meant to achieve a certain amount of surface tension probably to “contain” the growth a little).  This was particularly evident on the scoring of the loaf:  it now appeared that my notches were made far too close together, which pre-baked was not the case, or so I thought at least.

Baking it on the parchment paper turned out to be very helpful when it came time to apply the glaze–the paper prevented sticky drippings from landing all over the counter (drippings that probably would not have been to easy to get up once they had dried on). 

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My glaze did remain pretty sticky–not sure if that is due to my mixing all the ingredients together at the outset.  By the second day, however, it almost seemed to have absorbed into the loaf itself.

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The final verdict?  I loved this bread.  I was horrified to see how much I had eaten in only a few hours.  But is it any surprise?  I’ve blogged about my love of pannetone and those types of Italian breads, and this bread hits many of the highlights of those Italian holiday loaves:  citrus notes, luxurious spices, tender texture, a hint of sweetness.  It’s a bread I’ve always thought I should make someday but I’m glad for the challenge or I might not have ever gotten around to it!

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One thing I might do differently in the future however (besides correctly prepare the glaze and lighten up on the oil):  make two loaves.  This loaf was huge.  But only appropriate for a holiday bread!

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3 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #2: Greek Celebration Bread

  1. Pingback: BBA Challenge #11: Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread « Three Clever Sisters

  2. Pingback: BBA Challenge #27: Portuguese Sweet Bread « Three Clever Sisters

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