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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christopsomo (Christmas Bread)

Greece is a country where customs and traditions are a part of everyday life. My mother would tell us about how her family would celebrate Christmas in Greece and the kinds of foods that would be served. Presents are given on St. Basil's day which is on New Year's Eve and holidays breads and cakes with a lucky gold coin inside. Caroling was a tradition too, this is a Greek Christmas Carol - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbc_Zq8fXus

While my own family always celebrated Christmas in the western ways, I would always have something Greek as part of our holidays. Christopsomo is a braided sweet buttery egg bread with golden raisins and almonds, some people might mistake it for Challah.


1 package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk - scalded then cooled
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla or mastic (ouzo can be used)
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
4 to 5 cups white bread flour


In a medium bowl combine warm water and 1 tbsp. sugar, sprinkle yeast over it and allow to bloom in a warm place - 10 minutes. It will foam and bubble.

In a large bowl beat eggs, then add sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and cooled milk (it should be slightly warm).

Stir in 1 cup flour, almonds, raisins, and lemon zest and mix thoroughly. Start adding flour a half cup at a time until still and elastic.
Place in a well greased bowl and coat the ball of dough some butter. Loosely cover bowl and place in a warm place to double in size. I have a proofing feature on my oven but you can warm your oven to 100 degrees and set the bowl inside. It works very well that way!

When doubled in size, take the dough and punch down. Knead on a slightly floured surface. Separate into three balls. Proceed to roll each ball into a long rope. Press the three together at one end and then proceed to bring the end rope over the middle, alternating sides. (I should have photographed this step - I will do that at a later time!). It should look something like the above. Place on a slightly greased cookie sheet, I used nonstick foil which works beautifully. Let rise in the warm oven for about 40 minutes. Take out and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat an egg and brush over the top of the loaf, bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I personally like one big braid but my mom and I tried making two smaller loaves which were nice and you can make delicious biscotti too. Just slice and bake at 400 for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kourabiedes (Holiday cookies)

Every country has their traditional foods for the holidays and Greece is no exception. My mother would bake these crescent shaped cookies every December and put a single stick of clove in each one. These are a traditional Christmas cookie in Greece. You can flavor them with ouzo, metaxa (brandy), mastic, or rose water and add nuts. Below I have two variations that are quite delicious. I love it when my house smells like cloves and cinnamon in December. Over the next two weeks I will post at least three different recipes for this holiday season.


1 cup walnuts or almonds
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. brandy, ouzo, or orange liquor
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
Whole cloves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fahrenheit

Toast the walnuts or almonds until lightly browned and fragrant. I do it over the flame in a stainless steel pan. Let cool. In a food processor finely grind 1/2 cup of the nuts. And then chop the rest into medium small pieces.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, add the nuts. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolk, brandy or orange liquor for walnuts OR ouzo with almonds, and vanilla extract on medium speed. Mix until the mixture is light and fluffy, approximately 10 minutes.

At low speed at the dry ingredients. I add about 1/3 of the dry mix into the mixing bowl at a time, mix, add more, mix until you have a crumbly mixture. Cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature. About an hour.

Line a couple of baking sheets with either parchment paper, non-stick foil or coat with nonstick spray.

Take a tablespoon at a time. Walnut version - roll into balls between the palms of your hands.

Almond version - form into a crescent shape and stick a clove in the middle.

Bake cookies until lightly browned and set, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven, while hot dust all sides with powdered sugar and set in a pan to cool. Once cooled give them another dusting of sugar to give them that lovely white snowy look.