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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BBA Challenge #2 - Greek Celebration Bread (Artos)

Disclaimer - I had a great idea as far as the formatting of this post goes... but I finally had to give up and just post it. It may not be pretty, but here it is.

The second bread in our Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge was Artos, otherwise known as Greek Celebration Bread. This is an interesting bread that includes dried fruit, nuts and lots of spices including cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.

The method that Mr. Reinhart suggests in his formula includes the making of a "poolish" which is pretty much like a starter of some flour, water, and a little bit of commercial yeast. I mixed my poolish together on Friday evening and then once it began to bubble, I stored it in the refrigerator until my baking day on Sunday.

As I was preparing to make the bread and getting all my spices out on my baking day I noticed that I had everything but the ground nutmeg. Then, I remembered that I had some whole nutmeg. With no microplane in my possession, I had to resort to the "old fashioned" mortar and pestel. So I sliced of a bit and began to grind it up. Have you ever seen the inside of a nutmeg? It was actually fairly easy going, easier than I expected.

The next challenge I had to overcome was the nuts. It's no secret that we just don't do nuts around here. No, we're not allergic. And yes, I like peanuts and peanut butter. And my man likes him some chocolate covered almonds. But to have nuts in a bread or cake or any baked good for that matter. Um, no thanks.

So. What to do? Well, what's a celebration without chocolate? And I had just enough of some really good chocolate chips leftover from making some cookies recently. SCORE!!

I mixed up all my dry ingredients then added them into the poolish along with eggs, butter, milk, orange extract and vanilla (I didn't have almond extract).

Once again, I encountered a dough that is starting to look much closer to cake batter than bread dough. This is the 2nd time I've encountered this dilemma, 1st time was with the Anadama bread. Plain and simple, it just needs more flour. But how much more?

I probably added another cup to 1 1/2 cups. I start by adding 1/2 cup at a time knowing it needed quite a bit more. But then as it thickened some, I added only 1/4 cup at a time not wanting to add too much. I figure I can always add a little more, but it's hard to take it out.

Once it started looking a bit more like dough, I let it rest for 20 minutes or so while I did some other things.

Several people mentioned their mixers having a hard time with kneading this dough. Mine seemed to do okay with it. But for some reason, I just can't resist kneading a little by hand. I have just got to have my hands on the dough at some point.

And I actually felt like I achieved a pretty good window pane ("pain") with the elasticity this time.

Toward the end of the kneading time, I added my raisins, dried cherries and finally the chocolate chips. My method of mixing them in was to stretch out the dough, holding it by the edges and making a large disk. Add some fruit or chocolate chips on top and fold them in several times and repeat. I was hesitant to do a lot of hard kneading with the fruit and stuff in there.

Then it was time for the first fermentation.

With fermentation complete, it was time for shaping. I chose to do a braided loaf, so I divided the fermented dough into three sections. I rolled each out and stretched them into long strands.

The instructions in the book have you start this braid in the middle and go to one end, then braid the other.

I was a little surprised that my braid turned out looking pretty good.

I have a disposable aluminum baking pan that I usually use to put over bread as it proofs, but it was too small, but the lid to my cake taker worked great.

After proofing.
It. Was. Big.
And ready for the oven.

After only the first 20 minutes, it was already a nice golden brown. As I mentioned this to some other people on twitter, they encountered the same thing. I probably should have tented it with some foil to prevent over browning at this point, but I didn't think of it in time.

I checked the doneness again after another 15 minutes. But it did not get fully done until a total of 40 minutes. This was my final loaf.

My impressions of this bread:

Not difficult, but it challenged me to do a few new things. For instance, I had not used a poolish before (nor had I ever heard of one). I personally think that the use of the poolish helped the gluten and elasticity of the dough to develop better. I also had not braided a dough before, so that was kind of fun as well.

The taste was good. I know it's not authentic since I didn't use nuts and used chocolate instead, but if I'm going to make something, I want at least a fighting chance of getting my family to eat it. Some have said they like it for breakfast, but I'd say it also makes a fine afternoon snack. Maybe for a tea or something.

Would I make it again? Yes.


Paula - bell'alimento said...

Your Artos is beautiful! & Congrats on being in the foodbuzz top 9 today :)

Susieqtpie said...

Congrats!!!! whooo hooo!