Monday, December 8, 2014

Greek Christmas Bread and Guatemalan Champurradas

Champurradas and Coffee!
I have been absent from this blog because I have been busy with various projects. One was even Christmas related! For starters, one of my daughters was turning 40 a few days back, and when my oldest turned 40, I had created a cookbook-memoir for her, of all the recipes I had amassed when in Guatemala. Mind you, many of the recipes I made while down there were made by copying what someone else did, while I watched, or approximating what I ate and tasted somewhere. 

While living in Guatemala, we had little money, and one little Instamatic camera. More often than not, the flash would not work, so it was safest to take photos outside, but even then, most photo taking was of one of the children, or my husband (at the time) or myself, for a holiday or birthday. Looking back, I so wish I could have had the camera I own today, and the ability to take all those missed photo ops all over again. So when it came to making that cookbook-memoir, I had little, if any, photos of the foods, much less of the beautiful scenery. I searched online for photos that looked similar enough to what I had made and used them in that book. It was only a memoir for my daughter, after all. She knows what the foods and the country look like, as she spent time there as a young adult, but it's nicer to have photos. 

One assortment from blogsite:

So when Jenny turned 40 a few days ago, I asked if she was interested in a remake of that same book. It was an emphatic YES! At this point in time, I have made many of the recipes and photographed them for my website or this blog, so I can go back and replace some of the photos in that book with my own. Still, there are a lot of recipes I keep meaning to make and get photos of, but just never seem to make the time. Two of these are Champurradas and Guatemalan Empanadas de Manjar. I had been working on the remake of the cookbook-memoir, and when I got to the page for Champurradas, I thought, "Enough! Just DO it!" So I went downstairs and made them.

Assortment 2 from blogsite:
I had never made Champurradas before. I had a recipe I copied from somewhere, but Guatemalan recipes are notorious for lack of proper measurements and sometimes of any measurements at all. I had cobbled together what I intended to try, after noting the differences in a few different recipes. One thing that my recipe called for was Masa Harina, the corn flour used for making tortillas. While I love the flavor of Masa Harina in things, my "taste memory" of Champurradas did not recall that particular flavor. Still, this was a test. If it came out well, great. If not, try, try again.

So What are Champurradas?

In Guatemala, as well as Mexico and other countries of Latin America, there are large varieties of what are called "Pan Dulce" or Sweet Breads. While these breads are not really what one might term "sweet", they are richer than French bread or sandwich bread. They are made in all sorts of flavors and styles. Little round ones with a sugary topping are "molletes", little anise studded ones called "cemitas", long, crispy, sugar-coated "hojaldras", flat, cookie-like "champurradas" and so many many more (see the two photos above, that I snitched from this website). So, a champurrada is the closest to a cookie that I can describe of the breads in Guatemala. Flat and crisp, but very large at about 5 or more inches across. Not really too sweet, they were marvelous dunked in a nice cup of coffee. As it happens, they turned out really well, and I am enjoying them, one at a time, with coffee. This is what I did to make them:


makes 10 to 12, depending on thickness and diameter
Champurradas, ready to bake

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup shortening or lard (2 ounces)
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar (3 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (6.85 ounces)
1/2 cup Torti-Ya/Masa Harina (flour for making corn tortillas)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs, lightly whisked
unhulled sesame seeds for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection Bake). Have two cookie sheets ready.

Cream together the butter and shortening or lard with the sugar. Whisk together the dry ingredients and add them to the creamed mixture until it looks like crumbs, much as for pie dough. stir in the lightly-whisked eggs and bring the mixture together quickly with a fork or fingers, without over working the dough. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to less than 1/4-inch thick and cut rounds that are about 5-inches in diameter. I used a small dessert bowl with smooth rim. 

Set these rounds onto the cookie sheets. They will not grow appreciably, so they can be set as close as 1-inch apart. If there is a little egg left in the container where they were whisked, stir in a tablespoon of water to the container and use a pastry brush to brush this over tops of the cookies. Sprinkle lightly with the sesame seeds. Bake them for 25 minutes, or until nicely golden.

Christopsomos, Greek Christmas Bread

Large "X" on top of the bread
The other project I was working on was deciding what to give as gifts to the family here for Christmas this year. To date, I have given plates of cookies, and while well received, they are a chore at times, making so very many to give away. I thought of making some kind of bread. Turning once more to The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, I leafed through, checking what he had of interest in Christmas Breads. There are three in this book: German Stollen, Italian Panettone and Greek Christopsomos. I have made my version of Stollen many, many times, bastardizing the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, from circa 1966. Reinhart's version of the Stollen will likely be most exceptional. Every single bread I have made from that book has been exceptional. I wanted to try something different. I got caught up reading about "Greek Celebration Breads" and got hooked on the idea of the Christopsomos. 
This Greek bread is made with a Byzantine cross on top, made with curlicues at the ends. The cross is also an "X" shape, which is the first letter of Khrestos (Christ) in the Greek alphabet. The name "Christopsomos" translates to "Christ's Bread".

The only difficulty was that Reinhart does not specify how large a loaf the recipes makes. Reading the ingredients, I was unsure if one recipe would make two normal sized loaves or not. To be safe, I experimented first making 1 1/2 times the recipe. As it turned out, the bread was amazingly good, and the recipe would be perfect as gifts. But.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if maybe the Panettone would be better as a gift? We live in South Dakota. There are so many people who find what I feel are mundane ingredients to be totally "out there", strange and exotic. I used Kalamata dried figs and dried cherries, soaked in Gran Marnier overnight. I used Mahlab, a very Mediterranean spice, the tiny kernels of the pit of the St. Lucie Cherry. Maybe I was a little out of some people's comfort zones?

Christopsomos, sliced
So, while I have not yet made the Panettone, I expect it to come out amazingly good as with all the breads from this book. Once I make a batch I will post photos here. For now though, I would remake the Christopsomos bread any time. It made some amazing French Toast this morning, too!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.