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Greek Christmas Bread - Christopsomo

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Greek Christmas Bread - Christopsomo

Christopsomo - Greek Christmas Bread

Photo © Lynn Livanos Athan

Christopsomo (hree-STOH-psoh-moh) or Christ’s bread is a holiday tradition in every Greek household. It’s a sweet egg bread baked with nuts, raisins or candied fruits.

It is made with the richest of ingredients as an offering to Christ who will bestow blessings upon the family in the coming year.

Prep Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: Two braided loaves

Ingredients:

  • For the sponge:
  • 3 envelopes active dry yeast (3 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 cup warm (not hot) water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • For the bread:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups warmed milk (cooled)
  • 1 tsp. ground masticha (substitute 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted (2 sticks)
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water (for brushing)

Preparation:

Prepare the sponge:In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the sugar, flour, and salt until well mixed. Cover and set aside in a warm place until the mixture foams and bubbles.

For the bread: In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until light yellow in color. Add the milk, masticha, and melted butter. Mix well. Add the lemon peel, almonds, and raisins and mix until just incorporated. Add the yeast sponge to the mixture and mix well.

Begin adding the flour to the mixture cup by cup. (If you are using a stand mixer, I switch the head from the beater to the bread hook.)

Incorporate all the flour and mix until the dough comes together and is somewhat stiff but still very moist and elastic. This is a wetter dough than basic bread.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 2 hours depending upon the temperature.)

Turn the dough out on to a well-floured surface and punch down. Knead and separate into two round balls. Cover lightly with plastic and allow dough to rest 10 minutes before shaping.

Separate each ball into three pieces and roll these pieces out into cords about a foot long. (Break off pieces of dough for making decorative shapes if desired.)

Shape the cords into a braid and place on a lightly greased baking sheet to make braided loaves or shape into round loaves in a lightly greased round baking pan. Set aside to rise again for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat an egg with a splash of water and lightly brush the bread with beaten egg before baking. Bake for 30 minutes or until a nicely golden brown.

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