Greek Easter Bread Recipe - Tsoureki

Greek Easter Bread Recipe - Tsoureki
Tsoureki is a traditional bread that is served at Easter. It can be formed in many different shapes, including large braided loaves, smaller loaves, and even dinner roll sizes. The traditional form is the large braided loaf, however. This recipe makes two large, braided loaves.

If you want this bread to be as traditional as possible, plan to make the braided loaf. You will want to dye some red Easter eggs to put on the bread before baking. The trick to this is that you need to dye them with a reliable dye that will not run. It is best to find the dye at a Greek store. If you cannot, make sure you follow the instructions on the food coloring package for dyeing eggs and add enough vinegar to make sure the color stays in place. According to the Greek culture, the eggs are red to symbolize Christ’s sacrifice.

If you choose not to use Easter eggs, you can cover the loaf with chopped almonds or walnuts after you apply the egg wash. Also, a note on the recipe. Tsoureki is traditionally flavored with a Greek spice called Mahlepi, which is actually a ground powder that comes from a type of cherry tree from Persia. I've chosen to share with you a recipe that does not use it because in some places, the spice could be hard to find. However, if you can find it, omit the orange juice, candied orange peels, cinnamon, and nutmeg and replace it with the Mahlepi. I have never worked with it, so I am not sure on the amounts. I would guess 1/2 - 1 teaspoon.

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

1 cup milk
1 package extra dry yeast
6 cups all purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten slightly
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon finely chopped, candied orange peels (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) of salted butter, brought to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons orange juice or ½ teaspoon of orange extract
1 medium egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water added

Warm milk in a small saucepan until a cooking or candy thermometer reads 112-115 degrees. Dissolve yeast in the warmed milk. If the thermometer reads more than 115 degrees, wait until the milk cools before you add the yeast.

Pour yeast into a large mixing bowl and mix in ½ cup of flour. Be careful that there are no lumps. You may want to use a mixer for a few seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and set it near your oven for thirty minutes, or until the paste starts to bubble.

Add eggs to the dough paste and mix. You can use your hands, a wooden spoon, a hand mixer, or an upright mixer. Just make sure that everything is well combined. If you use a standing mixer, attach the dough hook.

Add about one cup of the flour, the orange zest, orange peel, salt, butter, vanilla, and orange juice, and spices and combine. If you had been using a hand mixer or spoon, you may want to start using your hands. If you’ve been using an upright mixer, you can continue using it.

Continue mixing in the flour until a good bread dough consistency is reached. If you have never made bread before, don’t worry. A good consistency is one that is firm but slightly sticky. You may not need all six cups of the flour, or you may need even more than that.

Knead the dough on a flat, lightly flowered surface for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and snaps back in place if you pinch it. Brush a large mixing bowl with oil, butter, or spray with cooking spray. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place. Let rise until dough doubles in size.

Once the dough rises, punch it down until all the air releases. From there, you can divide the dough in two parts. Divide each part into three additional parts and work into rope-like strands using your hands. Form these three strands into a braided shape.

Note: The strands should be 12-15 inches long in order to make the proper loaf shape.

Make an egg wash using one beaten egg and one tablespoon of water. Brush loaf with the wash. Place dyed, uncooked Easter eggs on the top of the bread. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the loaf is brown. You can tell it is done in the center by tapping the top of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the loaf is finished. However, you can form the bread into any shape you like.

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