Lefkaditiko Psomi tou Gamou

Wedding Bread from Lefkas

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THE TASTE, aroma and especially the shape of this bread from Lefkas, one of the smaller islands in the Ionian Sea, are remarkable. Like all festive breads, it is not supposed to be cut but pulled apart. Instead of being baked in a loaf, the dough is divided into pieces, with each one shaped into a twist and baked next to one another. As the dough rises, the twists come together but, once baked, they are easily pulled apart. Serve with fresh cheese such as ricotta, manouri or Gorgonzola, or with butter and jam.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons aniseeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ recipe Old Dough Starter
  • 3–3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil or melted unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • About cup cold water
  • Milk

Method

In a small bowl, combine the warm water, honey and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

In a mortar or spice grinder, coarsely grind the fennel seeds, aniseeds and coriander seeds.

In a food processor, combine the starter, 3 cups flour, oil or butter, egg, honey mixture, ground spices and salt. With the motor running, pour in ½ cup cold water to make a soft, sticky dough. Add a little more water if the dough is too stiff. Let the dough rest in the food processor for 15 minutes.

Process the dough for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until slightly sticky and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl and a piece of plastic wrap. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the oiled bowl. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.

Oil a baking sheet. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 4 pieces, then divide each piece into quarters. Roll 1 of the pieces into a 20-inch-long rope. Fold the rope in half, twist it and place on the oiled baking sheet. Repeat with a second piece of dough, placing the second twist next to the first, with its folded end beside the loose ends of the previous twist. Repeat with the rest of the dough to make a rectangular loaf composed of adjoining twists. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

At least 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with milk.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake for 35 minutes more, or until light golden on top. Wearing oven mitts, carefully remove the bread from the baking sheet and place it directly on the oven rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the bread is browned on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before pulling apart into pieces.

Variation

The same bread can be turned into delicious biscuits. Separate baked twists and rebake them on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until completely dry. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for months.

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