Raisin Bread from Mykonos

Mykoniatiko Tsoureki

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This much lighter festive bread is a very interesting variety of the traditional raisin bread (stafidopsomo). This version comes from Mykonos, and was given to me by Anna Sigala, my neighborhood baker. She got it from her grandmother.

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 on, when this stupid regulation was no longer applied, raisin breads disappeared from the bakeries because no one would buy them. Only recently, more than two generations later, is raisin bread again becoming popular.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sourdough Starter
  • 8-9 cups all-purpose flour
  • cups warm water
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons ground mahleb or 1 tablespoon ground mastic
  • cups orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about
  • 2 inches long)
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1½-2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup coarsely ground walnuts (optional)
  • Olive oil, for brushing the pans and dough
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method

The night before you plan to bake, mix the starter with 2 cups flour and cups warm water. Let stand, covered with plastic wrap, until the next morning.

The next day, in a large bowl, mix the cornmeal with 6 cups flour. Add the salt, yeast, and mahleb. In a saucepan, pour the orange juice over the cinnamon stick and cloves and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the honey. Stir to dissolve and let cool a little, then pass it through a fine sieve.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the cornmeal mixture, and pour in the starter and orange juice mixtures. Start drawing flour toward the liquids until all is mixed. Knead the dough, wetting your hands with warm water if it is too hard or sprinkling with flour if it is too sticky. When smooth and shiny, after 7 to 10 minutes, cut the dough in thirds with a knife. With each piece of dough, make a rectangle about 7 x 11 inches, and sprinkle with one-third of the raisins and the walnuts, if using.

Roll each rectangle to make a loaf, and put it in an oiled 9 x 4½-inch loaf pan. When all 3 breads are in pans, brush with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place the pans in a warm (120°F.) oven, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 1½ hours, or until doubled in size.

Remove the plastic and turn up the oven to 375°F. Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Invert the pans and remove the loaves. Bake bottom side up on oven rack for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden and hollow sounding when tapped.

Cool loaves on a rack.