BBA Challenge Bread #2: Artos

Published December 12, 2011 by livinggraciously

For the most part, I’m not a big fan of egg breads. I think they get weirdly dried out way to fast, and tend toward blandness. So I wasn’t actually all that excited to see that the second bread in the challenge is the Greek celebration bread, Artos. Nevertheless, a challenge is a challenge, and as it happens we are going to a holiday event today, so it’s a good day to make a bread to share–and not have lots of leftovers to dry out.

The Artos bread itself has a long list of ingredients, but the recipe included two variations, one for Christmas and one for Easter. Since it’s Christmas time, and since that was the most complicated variation, and since I’m kind of an idiot, of course I chose that one.

Additionally, this bread needed to be ready to leave the house at 1:30 today, and I had no intention of getting up early to start it, so I decided to go against all the conventional wisdom of enriched breads and mix it last night, refrigerating it to slow down the fermentation/rising process.

As I said, the ingredient list was rather long, so I measured everything by weight, mixing the wet ingredients together before adding them to the dry ones. The resulting dough was supposed to be “tacky, but not sticky.” Instead, it looked like cookie dough:

Clearly, kneading this was going to require some assistance:

Eventually, I probably added almost 3 more ounces of flour to the dough, but after about 6 minutes I had beautiful gluten. That’s when I had to add in the fruit: half a cup each of raisins and dried cranberries (I left out the walnuts because I don’t like them in bread).  Kneading in the fruit was an experience. It wanted to skitter across the counter instead of getting incorporated, but eventually I caught almost all those little buggers and got them into the bread. I was wincing all the way, because of course the dried fruit was tearing away at my lovely gluten, but that couldn’t be helped. When the dough was done it went into the fridge for the night:

and came out just how I wanted it in the morning, puffy, but not collapsed:

The next instruction is to divide off 1/3 of the dough to reserve for making the classic cross pattern atop that makes this Christopsomos bread. I deflated the bread very gently, then set aside 1/3 as instructed and formed the rest into a boule – a fancy way of saying a round loaf – and let that rise. Once that was risen was when things got interesting:

Prepared on parchment paper, the boule is ready for its cross decoration.

The next instruction is to divide the reserved dough in half, then roll each half out into a two foot long rope.

It is here that I would like to point out that Peter Reinhart is a big cheater. Because if you look at the picture in the book, the cross sections are smooth rolls:

But in reality, those long rolls were filled with raisins and cranberries. Do you know how hard it is to roll out dough with raisins and cranberries? But at last I was able to get the dough rolled out.

The next instruction was to split the ends of the ropes with a dough scraper and then roll them into curls at the base of the dough. I did one of them that way, then realized that was very silly when I had a perfectly good pair of kitchen shears right there.

Then it was into the oven. After many breads that have been cooked at high temperatures, it was weird to put a bread in at a mere 350 degrees. After three minutes I opened the oven to mist the bread.

Imagine my…surprise, shall we say? when I discovered that the spirals had relaxed and flopped down onto the parchment.

I suddenly had a very fat, stubby-legged octopus.

I spent the next 10 minutes or so opening the oven, recurling the bread spirals, and shutting it again to try and get the bread to bake. It slowed down the baking process by about 10 minutes, but the final results were good:

Pretty, yes, and smelled delicious. But how did it taste? We took it our event and sliced into it.

The result? It’s just amazingly delicious. I was shocked at how good this bread is. A lovely, warm and spicy flavor, soft texture, and the fruit just set it all off beautifully. Everyone came back for seconds and even thirds. There was a friendly scuffle over the small wedge that was left at the end of the evening.

I thought this was going to be a one-time bread, something to check off the list. Instead, I think I have found a bread that will make a regular appearance for special events.

But next time I will use toothpicks to hold up the spirals.

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