25 December 2013

Festive Christmas Bread


Well, it's time again for a festive Christmas Bread. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but in a Bulgarian tradition, the Christmas bread is round and a coin is hidden in it, somewhere along the edge. When the dinner starts, the bread is cut in the same number of pieces that there are people present. Then you spin the bread, and each person gets the piece in front of them - the person who gets the coin gets the luck. Yadda, yadda. There are similar traditions in England and Sweden - in England the coin goes into the Christmas pudding and as Lundulph points out, you need to be careful not to break your teeth. In Sweden, an almond goes in the Christmas porridge.

Anyway, when I found the festive bread last year, I found a number of other interesting bread shapes as well. So here's working my way through these. The original blog entry I found is here (in Bulgarian) and with pictures of how to shape it here (in Rumanian). The Bulgarian recipe for this bread was similar to the one I made last year, but wasn't as precise - quite a few "a little" and "some" in the ingredients list, so I decided to follow last year's recipe and just make the new shape.

One major difference in the ingredients was that I used soy milk, as my Sister Bip has almost completely cut out dairy from her diet. I was highly suspicious of how this would work, but frankly my feelings were unfounded. A more minor worry was that the kitchen scales were playing up a bit, so there is a good chance things weren't measured entirely correctly, but it seems they were close enough.


1 dl warm soy milk (about 40 degrees)
1 tbsp honey
20 g fresh yeast

Main dough
500 g strong flour + lots more for kneading
0.5 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium eggs + 1 egg white
0.5 tbsp cider vinegar
1.5 dl warm soy milk (about 40 degrees)

Between the layers
50 g butter

Glazing and decoration 1 egg yolk
2 tbsp soy milk
seeds - poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin etc.


  1. Stir together the pre-ferment in a bowl and let bubble up, about 20 - 30 minutes.
  2. In the mean time stir together the ingredients for the main dough as far as possible, the mixture will be very dry.
  3. Add the pre-ferment and mix together to a very sticky dough, almost a thick batter.
  4. Generously flour the work surface and turn out the dough, then work it until the gluten develops.
  5. Place back in the mixing bowl, cover with cling film and let rise to double size, about an hour.
  6. Line a large tray with baking paper, then gently melt the butter.
  7. Weigh the dough and divide in two equal parts.
  8. Divide one of the halves into five equal parts.
  9. From the other half, cut a quarter of it and set aside, this will be the middle. Divide the remainder into five equal parts.
  10. Starting with the five larger parts, roll each one to a circle, about 5 mm thick. Place the first one on the prepared baking tray and brush with melted butter before adding the next circle.
  11. Roll the last circle a little larger so that it will cover the layers below. Don't brush with butter.
  12. Now using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut a star through the five layers, taking care not to cut all the way to the edge. Then carefully fold out each wedge.
  13. Next, repeat the same thing with the five smaller pieces of dough. I recommend they are stacked on a plate or a separate piece of baking paper.
  14. Once they are done, gently place them in the middle hole of the bread and with the knife cut another star into the new round. Make sure that each cut lines up with the middle of the bent out wedges. Then carefully bend the new wedges outwards.
  15. Finally shape the middle piece to a flat circle and place in the middle.
  16. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (fan assisted). Whisk together the yolk and milk and brush the bread, then sprinkle seeds over. I arranged the pumpkin seeds one by one, which took so long, there was no need to leave the bread for a second rise, it kind of happened on its own.
  17. Bake for about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it, so it doesn't burn on top. If it starts browning too fast, cover with a piece of aluminium foil.

I'd planned to have poppy seeds in the middle, then sesame seeds on the inner wedges and sunflower seeds on the outer wedges, but unfortunately it turned out there were neither poppy seeds, nor sunflower seeds around. I found lots of pumpkin seeds and so had to make do with them and sesame seeds. There were onion seeds as well, but they are black and I thought wouldn't be suitable for Christmas.

There was kyopoolu of course and as it turns out, this bread is particularly suitable for dipping as the layers come apart quite easily and are perfectly shaped for scooping up dips.

One thing is that because there are so many pieces that need to be rolled out, you need to work fast, because the yeast dough doesn't wait, it keeps rising while you work on the shaping. My first few pieces were far from round, I figured out that if I shaped each piece to a ball first, it was easier to roll into a circle. Also I kept adding flour to prevent it from sticking to the surface. In the photo above, the dough pieces look almost the same size and they sort of were - the whole dough weighed about 1 kg, so the larger pieces were 100 g each, then the middle piece was 125 g and the smaller pieces were 80, but again thanks to the crazy kitchen scales, who knows what things really weighed. In rolling out the circles it was more obvious to see that the larger pieces resulted in larger circles.

On the whole very nice bread. My Sister Bip was the lucky one this year and got the coin. The whole family quite enjoyed the bread too, so this shape will be worth repeating. To drink, we had a very nice Italian wine, which my Dad had bought especially.


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