My days have been filled with yeast, flour, gluten, enzymes, and all things bread-related as I catch up with the rest of the food bloggers on the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Artos is the second recipe in Reinhart’s book, a master recipe for a variety of Greek Celebration breads which are baked and blessed during services at the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. The name itself meant “leavened bread” in ancient Greek, but today is used to refer to any bread blessed and broken in Church, taking on various shapes and ingredients for major occasions such as Easter and Christmas. Reinhart gives us a choice of three different types of Artos: the original, Christopsomos – a variation for Christmas with a bread-dough cross and the addition of dried nuts and fruit, and Lambropsomo – an Artos for Easter with hard-boiled eggs. In the spirit of simplicity, I opted for Artos, but man, this bread is anything but simple! I mean, a recipe that calls for a poolish pre-ferment, with four types of spices (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice), not to mention orange zest, eggs, honey, olive oil AND milk, can’t be all that simple can it?
Assembling the mise en place, I could see how this was a recipe for celebrations, playing homage to Nature’s abundance with its many spices and liquid ingredients. Kneading the dough, I imagined the many Greek bakers (mothers and grandmothers perhaps) measuring out each ingredient with clockwork precision, battering the dough in their bustling kitchens just as I was doing, bringing their years of experience to massaging and coaxing the ingredients to mix and meld. Due to the pre-ferment and the amount of liquid in the dough, it took me an additional cup of flour to bring the dough to the right consistency, and 15 minutes of non-stop kneading. I felt like I was gently wrestling with a small air-filled balloon that never seemed to burst – hard work, but a good workout nevertheless!
The first proofing was the initial hint that this was destined to be an extraordinary loaf – it was huge! As if aware of its destiny, the dough kept marching on its growth path in the second rise, marshalling each of its enzymes to work to the point where it started to resemble the Death Star.
Well, almost. Fortunately, it managed to fit into our tiny oven although it did look a little like a space ship parked in its hangar, and produced warm aromas of cinnamon as it baked.
The taste reminds of a fruit cake (M says it is closer to gingerbread). The single teaspoon of orange zest rang out loud and clear with every bite, while the cloves, all spice and cinnamon played supporting acts. Each slice is great on its own as a breakfast toast topped with a pat of butter and some jam, but I also know that it works well as French Toast, and perhaps as book-ends for a sandwich of cold cuts and cheese. While I like this recipe, its current proportions are way too much for the both of us to finish. I’ll have to invite more people over for the next round!
Check out how these other bloggers did with their recipes and dough-shaping experiences: