Get prepared for a lifetime experience in the island of Corfu!
Greece’s traditional Christmas bread, called Christopsomo, which we mentioned in our previous post as part of the local Christmas customs, has received global attention, and even the famous Martha Stewart has given it a shot!
This semi-sweet, ‘blessed’ bread is made fresh and savoured the same day, on Christmas eve. A symbol of communion, it’s consumption is also considered a family bonding ritual, with the hope of bringing health and well being to all family members, and the animal members of the family! In the old days it related to the livestock they owned, nowadays it relates to family pets.
No two Christopsomo loaves will ever look identical, and that is part of the magic of this special bread. The loaf is usually decorated with swivel patterns on the crust made of dough, that look like tactile engravings when baked, representing aspects of the family's life and profession. Since the more traditional professions, such as the blacksmith for example, are no longer relevant, these profession emblems have dwindles over the years. However, the Christopsoma (plural) made nowadays are still pretty ornate, as the dough swivels create an intricate design to accompany the central cross, and are also embellished with almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds before being brushed with whipped egg white for a nice golden glaze. If you want to give this special Christmas bread a try, here is the classic Corfu recipe, as there are slight variations depending on each region of Greece.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ground cardamom seeds (seeds removed from the exterior husk)
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup golden raisins (and some for decoration)
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (and some for decoration)
Start by greasing an 8-inch circular cake pan. Then, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and allow to stand for a few minutes. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, 1 egg, milk, cardamom, cloves and butter and mix well. Add the yeast mixture, both types of flour, raisins and the walnuts. Mix well. If the dough is too moist and sticky, add a little all purpose flour to make softer, more manageable dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it is smooth and elastic, this should take about 5 minutes. Shape it into a round loaf. Now, you should allow the dough to rise; it is desirable that the dough becomes double in size. To do this, either place the dough into the cake pan, and cover with a towel, leaving it in a warm place for some time; alternatively you can place it in a preheated oven at 50 C. Once your dough has doubled in size, it’s time to start decorating it! Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 C. Take some of the dough and roll it into 4 long thick strips; 2 are used to create the central cross, while the other two can be used to create other types of patterns at the corners of the loaf. Press the swivels down to make sure they stick to the rest of the dough. Further decorate the bread with any toppings you like: raisins, walnuts or almonds. Crack the second egg into a bowl and mix it well, then brush the entire surface of the bread with a light layer, to bring about a nice golden brown glaze. Now proceed to bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Place the baked bread onto a cooling rack and allow to cool entirely before cutting.
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!