Spiced Greek Saint Bread: Artos

We are a house divided.  Jimmy and James are Greek Orthodox and I am Roman Catholic.  However, I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Greek church and nothing thrills me more than when I discover a new dish.  Several  years back while we were in Boston,  we went to church with  Jimmy’s brother, George.  Jimmy and all his siblings grew up in the cathedral,  with all the big city hustle and bustle of downtown.  All the Greek families grew up in the church.  The church was the religious and social nucleus of the Greek community.  The cathedral’s youth group was enormous.  All the kids went to the church after school and on weekends for pick-up basketball games, church dances and just  to hang out.  It was where most of Jimmy’s friends met their future wives and husbands.  Here we were, years later, and as always, in the church hall after Sunday service.  While my husband and brother-in-law caught up with old friends I strolled the perimeter of the coffee table.  A pretty, little basket caught my eye as it held some sort of coffee cake or bread or maybe it’s cake…I didn’t know but I sure was going  to try it out.  It was life altering.  Chewy on the outside yet moist and yielding on the inside, its mysterious, warm flavors caught me off guard.  Turns out it was a bread called Artos, redolent with the flavors of the Middle East.  At first bite I was reminded of the gifts the Magi offered the Christ child because of the heady fragrance of cinnamon, cloves and ground aniseed.  I had to make it.  I had to!  Well, here it is.  Artos is an easy bread to make but it is a bit messy and does require a little rising time.  Well worth it if you ask me.  The recipe can be doubled and I feel you may as well make two then you can give one to a friend or someone special.  The recipe is adapted from Anissa Helou’s book “Savory Baking From the Mediterranean”.  The bread is fabulous with almond butter or Nutella accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee.  It’s great as breakfast or as a snack and is fabulous as  sandwich sliced, stuffed with bananas and nut butters then grilled.  Try it.  You’ll amaze yourself!

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Spiced Greek Saint Bread, Artos

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast, (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading and shaping
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • grated zest of 1 large orange, I use navels
  • 2 tablespoons ground aniseed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional to grease pan
  • 2 tablespoons good red wine, (You know you have a bottle open!)
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, optional
  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, stir until creamy and set aside to “foam”.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, salt, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves and aniseed and make a well in the center.
  3. To the well add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, red wine and 3/4 cup warm water and mix well.  The dough will be quite wet and sticky.  That’s fine.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm corner of your kitchen to rise for 1 hour or.
  5. Grease a deep 9-inch round baking dish making sure to cover the entire rim as well.  If using sesame seeds sprinkle 1/2 evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  6. Cover a thick layer of flour over a work surface, wet your hands with water or olive oil and transfer the dough to the work surface.
  7. Pick up the top edges of the dough and fold them toward the middle.  Do the same with the bottom.
  8. QUICKLY pick up the dough and plop it seam side down into the waiting baking pan.
  9. Gently even out the dough by patting it
  10. Wet hands again and spread more water evenly over the entire surface.
  11. If using sesame seeds sprinkle the remaining half over the top of the dough.
  12. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with non-stick spray, loosely cover the dough and set aside to rise for 1 hour or until double in bulk.
  13. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  14. Uncover the bread and bake for 20 minutes.
  15. Reduce the heat to 350° and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown all over.
  16. Cool on a wire rack.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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