The Food Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

LAMBROPSOMO -GREEK EASTER BREAD

Wherever Greeks have settled in America many of the housewives still mark the end of Lent by producing several kinds of traditional breads, including Lambropsomo, or Easter bread. Lambropsomo may or may not incorporate eggs that have been hard boiled and dyed red; usually one egg is centered in a round leaf with a cross formed over it, or four red eggs will be nestled into a braided loaf. Our recipe calls for one loaf of each of these shapes. In some households the same bread without the red egg decoration is baked and served on Sunday throughout the year.

Makes 2 round loaves.
2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1 c. warm milk
1/2 c. melted butter, room temp.
2 tsp. coarse salt or 1 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. aniseed, crushed
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. grated orange rind
1/4 tsp. mahleb (opt.)
About 6 c. white flour, preferably unbleached
2-5 hard boiled eggs, dyed red

GLAZE:
Soft butterSesame seeds (opt.)
In a large bowl mix yeast with warm water, then stir in milk, butter and salt. Add the aniseed, the beaten eggs, the sugar, grated orange peel and optional mahleb. Keep stirring while adding the flour. When the mixture is stiff, turn out on a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and satiny.
Clean the bowl and grease it well. Put the dough in the bowl, and turn so all surfaces are oiled; cover with plastic and let rise about 2 hours, until doubled.
Punch the dough down, knead briefly and divide in half to make the two different shapes (or make two loaves of the same shape if you prefer).
To make a round loaf with a cross with one half of the dough, first tear off a piece of dough, about one-fifth the whole amount. Form the larger piece into a round and put it on a greased baking sheet. Center one red egg on the top of the round. Divide the reserved piece in half and roll out 2 long strips. Place these over the egg in the form of a cross, tucking the ends under the loaf.
To make a braided crown with the other half, divide the dough in thirds and roll out into ropes at least 24" long. Braid the ropes together, pinching the ends securely and then form into a circle on a greased baking sheet, pinching again the ends where they overlap. Nestle 4 red eggs in among the braids.
Cover both loaves with a kitchen towel and let rise 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and brush immediately with butter, then sprinkle on optional sesame seeds.

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