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The Best of Winter Breads: Greek Festival Bread

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This is one of those recipes where when you look at, you say to yourself "I don't think so." Yes, it has quite a few ingredients (17 to be exact) and it has quite a few steps (11 to be exact), but it is rather easy to prepare and I think you'll find the final results to be well worth the effort.

I first had this bread when I attended a wedding in Greece. I was first attracted to it visually. Once I had my first taste, I was attracted physically, emotionally and culinarily. It is a bread with an incredible marriage of tastes and though it does contain quite a few Mediterranean flavors, it is not over-powering at all. I will often serve this bread when I am having a dinner featuring dishes from the Mediterranean.

This also makes a wonderful toast for either breakfast or a healthy snack!

Ingredients needed to make Greek Festival Bread (makes 2 loaves):

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbs. yeast
  • 8 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbs. orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds

Steps:

  1. In a small bowl whisk together 1 Tbs. brown sugar, warm water and the yeast. Set the bowl aside 5 minutes for the yeast to proof (foam).
  2. In a large bowl stir together 2 cups flour, the proofed yeast and milk until smooth. Stir in 3 ½ cups flour to make a very dense and hard dough.
  3. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead 10 minutes (you will think you have made a mistake due to the denseness of the dough. You haven’t! Remember, we still have moisture that will be added). Place back into the bowl, cover and let rest (it will slightly rise) 1 hour.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, remaining brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, vanilla, allspice and salt.
  5. Stir in the egg mixture, 3 Tbs. of melted butter and the remaining flour (this will be hard to stir and blend but you can make it easier by using your hands in the bowl). Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead.
  6. Shape the loaves in either a ball (for a round loaf) and or a log (for a typical baguette look).
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set on loaf on each sheet and set aside to rise 2 hours.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  9. In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, remaining butter and honey. Brush this mixture over each loaf and sprinkle with the almonds.
  10. Place in oven and bake 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake 25 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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