Makes two 12-inch round loaves
For the starter:
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 8 to 10 cups all-purpose flour, as needed
- 1 cup sugar
- 3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 11⁄2 cups warm water, or more if necessary
- 1⁄2 cup ouzo
- 11⁄2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
- 11⁄2 cups coarsely chopped golden raisins
- 10 whole unshelled walnuts for garnish
1. Begin to make the starter 1 to 2 days ahead: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1⁄2 cup of the warm water and mix to combine. Let stand until creamy,
about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1⁄2 cup water and stir in the flour. Mix until a dough mass forms, adding a little more flour if necessary to make it smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let the starter stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 days; it will rise and then fall back on itself and turn slightly sour.
2. Prepare the dough for the bread: Combine 8 cups of the flour, the sugar, and salt in a large bowl or basin. Add the olive oil and work the mixture with your fingertips until it is coarse and mealy. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm water, ouzo, chopped nuts, and raisins. Break the starter up into small pieces, adding them to the well.Mix to combine with a wooden spoon, then knead well on a lightly floured work surface until the dough is smooth and soft, about 12 minutes, adding more flour if needed to achieve the proper texture. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 21⁄2 hours.
3. Punch the dough back down. Remove a fistsize piece and set aside. Shape the remaining dough into 2 equal balls, flatten each a little with your hands, and place in 2 oiled 12-inch round pans. Press 5 walnuts, forming a cross, into each of the loaves. Take the fistful of dough you’ve set aside and roll it into thin, round (not flat like fettuccine) strips. Cut and wrap around each of the walnuts to secure. Let the dough rise again. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. When the dough is swollen and almost doubled, place in the oven and bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and pans and cool completely on a wire rack.