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Tsoureki- braided Greek Easter bread

Easter is a huge holiday in Greece. Celebrated on April 4th this year, Easter is Greece’s most important religious festival. Some traditions include lamb for Easter dinner, candlelight church services, dyed red eggs, and the baking of Tsoureki- a breaded sweet bread. Traditionally, the bread is baked on Good Friday so it is ready to eat on Easter morning. Tsoureki is a large braided loaf that is similar to challah bread. You can use the bread to make French toast, or eat plain with coffee or tea. Fluffy and moist, Tsoureki bakes up large in the oven. Many loaves can be made for a large family gathering quite easily. You can form the loaves into braids- or create a braided basket to place your dyed eggs in. In Greece, families break the red hard boiled eggs in celebration and whoever ends up with an uncracked egg is said to have good luck the rest of the year.

Cook time 30 minutes- 350 degrees
Prep time- at least 4 hours
Note: the dough must rise twice before baking , so be sure to allow enough time to bake the bread completely.

Tsoureki (braided Greek Easter bread)
Ingredients:

Glaze:
2 egg yolks
4 tbsp cold milk
1 tbsp honey

Bread:
1 tablespoon canola oil
Zest of an orange
8 cups bread flour (substitute partial wheat flour if desired)
2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
˝ cup melted butter
6 eggs beaten
2 envelopes active dry yeast

Directions:

Make the glaze-
Beat together 2 egg yolks, 4 tbsp cold milk, and honey. Cover and place in fridge.

Make the bread:
Heat 2 cups of milk in medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of flour, 2 envelopes of yeast, and ˝ cup of sugar. Mix until combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in warm place. In a large bowl, combine 8 cups of bread flour, 1 tsp salt, zest of 1 orange, and 1 ˝ cups sugar until dough forms. Add yeast mixture, 6 beaten eggs, and melted butter. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto counter and knead dough for about 10 minutes. (You could also use your KitchenAid with a dough hook until smooth). Lightly grease a medium bowl with canola oil. Place dough in bowl and cover. Wait about 2 hours or until dough has doubled. Divide dough in 3, roll out into long strips with hands and braid. Place braid on baking sheet and cover to rise a second time for about 2 hours. Brush the glaze mixture onto dough and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Bread should be lightly browned and hollow sounding when it’s ready. Remove and cool on wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Serve with coffee or tea on Easter morning.

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