“Koulouri” – Cyprus, Anise Flavoured Bread

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I wish I could describe the taste of this bread. The fantastic smell in my house as it baked. The sound of crunchiness as I cut the first slice, the feathery softness as I took the first bite. Making your own bread is magic. Watching the dough come to life is the highlight of any baking day.

This recipe is inspired by the Cyprus “koulouria”. It’s a very aromatic bread usually flavoured with anise seeds, mahleb or mastic. There are many ways of preparing dough. But when it comes to bread making my motto is, the more time the better.

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When making bread you must not rush the dough to rise. A slow rise will help the flavour to develop and your bread will be delicious. You first need to make the so-called “sponge” or “starter”. You can then put it in the fridge overnight and bake your bread the next day. Don’t be intimidated; there is nothing difficult or complicated about home baked bread. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Make the “starter” and sprinkle with the ingredients of the dough. Let it rise for one hour.
  2. Knead together the sponge and the dough ingredients to form the bread dough. Let it rise. [At this stage you can let the dough rise for one hour and then put it in the fridge over night. The dough will continue to rise and the flavor of the bread will develop]
  3. Shape your bread and let it rise.
  4. Bake the bread
  5. Cool
  6. EAT

The actual kneading/mixing time is not much at all. So all you need to do really is manage your time, to allow for the rising.

Ingredients for the starter:

  • 1 cup “Mitsides” village flour (green pack)
  • ½ cup “Mitsides” whole meal flour (brown pack)
  • ½ tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1¾ cup water at room temperature

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 2 cups “Mitsides” village flour (green pack)
  • ¼ cup “Mitsides” whole meal flour (brown pack)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp mahleb seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 tsp anise seeds
  • ½ tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil for oiling the bowl
  • 2 Tbs sesame seeds (or a combination of sesame and sunflower seeds)

Method:

Make the starter: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the ingredients for the starter. The mixture should resemble thick batter. Let the batter rest in the mixer bowl until you make the dough mixture.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the dough mixture except the oil and seeds. Using a spoon, sprinkle the dough mixture lightly over of the starter mixture. Don’t mix. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in room temperature for 1 hour. During this time the sponge may rise through the flour.

Knead the bread. When ready to knead, beat the dough/starter mixture with a dough hook attachment. Start on low speed until all flour is moistened and then increase speed to medium. Knead for 7-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour. The end result should be a soft dough.

Shape the dough roughly in a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 2 hours in room temperature, until double in size. [At this stage you can cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest over night. The dough will continue to rise. Just make sure you give the dough enough time to come to room temperature before shaping].

Shape and bake the bread. Preheat oven to 240 C. Punch down the dough to deflate. Shape into a loaf and put on a baking tray, sprinkled with some flour (Of course, you can shape the bread any other way you like). If you are using sesame seeds, wash the seeds well with cold water. Use your hands to spread the sesame seeds on all sides of your loaf. Cover loosely with kitchen towels. Let the bread rise for 45 minutes-1 hour, until almost double in size.

Bake the bread. Using a very sharp knife, make 4-5 slashes, about 1 cm deep on the surface of the loaf. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 210 and bake 15 minutes more. Take the bread out of the oven, and put on a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Don’t be tempted to eat it straight away. The bread continues to cook while it cools.

 

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