Greek festive, Christmas and/or Easter breads (tsoureki) are similar to Jewish challah but have less fat and more spices. In this, my newest Vegan version, I began experimenting starting from the Raisin Bread from the island of Mykonos, a recipe that I had included in my very first book The Foods of Greece.
This much lighter festive bread is in fact an interesting variety of the traditional raisin bread (stafidopsomo). It comes from Mykonos, the now cosmopolitan Cycladic island, and was given to me by Anna Sigala, my old neighborhood baker from the days I used to live under the Akropolis.
Anna had told me that she learned to make it from her grandmother. Now that Koukaki –the area around Acropolis– has become extremely popular with both locals and foreign visitors, Takis, Anna’s son, transformed the old bakeshop into a much-written about bakery where tourists line up to get sandwiches, pies, and sweets.
My mother and father hated raisin bread because, for a period during the 1930s, the Greek government made it compulsory for everyone buying any kind of bread to buy some raisin bread, too. The Ministry of Agriculture had bought all the raisins from Corinth to keep the growers satisfied, for political reasons, and then invented this method to get rid of the surplus.
Later, when this stupid regulation was no longer applied, raisin breads disappeared from the bakeries because no one would buy them. Only recently, more than three generations later, raisin bread has again become popular.
Athenian bakeries often slice tsoureki and other flavored breads and bake them again, to make delicious, light biscotti; you can do the same with this one, if you have any leftover.
I love it with spicy cheese, like Rockford and Gorgonzola, or simply with coffee or tea; I also use as a base for English trifle or summer pudding, much like my older version of pumpkin and tangerine bread.
Makes 3 small loaves (more…)