Spicy Festive Bread with Orange, Squash, and Raisins

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…)

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“Mallorcas” Sweet Tsoureki Buns

Adapted from the Puerto Rican ‘Mallorcas, the slightly sweet breakfast buns I found in the festive pages of SAVEUR magazine. See also how I use this brioche-like dough to make a Strawberry Cake and a Chocolate & Almond Loaf.

 

“Fluffy, eggy, buttery, sweet, coiled like a snail’s shell, and generously dusted with powdered sugar, the pan de Mallorca is named for its land of origin, in Spain. They are delicious on their own, or split and turned into sweet-and-savory ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches,” the magazine’s introduction explained.

 

The dough is very similar to challah and the traditional Greek tsoureki,  –the sweet brioche-like festive breads we bake for Christmas and Easter. In my version I substituted light olive oil for the butter, and used whole eggs, instead of just egg yolks, then I decided to brush the dough rectangle with my Seville orange marmalade before rolling and cutting the buns. I also placed them one roll next to the other, like cinnamon rolls, and I wish I had managed to make all the buns roughly the same size…

(Photo from Saveur magazine

 

Makes 6 large buns            (more…)

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Yogurt Bread Stuffed with Cheese or Chocolate

This is a delicious, moist and very easy bread dough.

I describe here how you can make it into savory or sweets treats.

No need to make them both the same day, though. Just keep half the dough in the fridge to stuff and bake within the next 2-3 days making the sweet or savory version.  

 

You also can form into loaves or small buns and eat instead of any other bread; it makes wonderful sandwiches.

The cheese-stuffed bread is a lovely accompaniment to soups and vegetable dishes, or served as meze with  drinks. The chocolate bread can be part of breakfast or accompany soft cheese or served with tea, and coffee.

 

Yields 2 round loaves
(more…)

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