Thursday, 2 May 2013

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread



Greek Easter is coming up and I made a beautiful loaf of Tsoureki. (pronounced TSOO- REKI)
It is a beautiful sweet brioche like bread that is scented with lemon and orange and braided into a pretty loaf. This recipe is perfect for two loaves but, I decided to make 1 large one here.

 My dear friend Mary Ann had to mail me some mahlab/mahleb from Toronto. Pronounced MA- LEPI because it is not easily found in my town. Mahlab comes from ground cherry pits and has a very floral smell and a bitter almond taste. If you cannot get it you can substitute by grinding a 2" piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves and 1 bay leaf. There is also another spice normally used called Mastic which is a resin from a Mediterranean shrub and typically you use a very tiny amount 1/4 tsp. I did not include this in my recipe because I was not able to find it. Start this recipe in the morning to have it ready by the early evening.

You will need:
  • 1 cup milk (you could substitute almond milk here if you prefer)
  • 2 1/2 tsp regular dry yeast (this is 1 little yeast pkg)
  • 1/2 cup honey - mine was an amber honey
  • 3 cups all purpose flour - divided into 1 cup and 2 cups
  • 3 eggs + 1 more yolk for the egg wash
  • 2 tsp mahlab - mine came in a tiny package that was 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter - room temperature - cut into cubes
  • grated zest of 1 orange 
  • 4 tbsp orange juice (that was exactly how much 1 got from my orange)
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla paste (you can use extract)
  • additional 2 - 3 cups flour - I used 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • sesame seeds for top
*this recipe will make 2 loaves

Step 1: in a small sauce pan heat milk to 100 degrees - do not let it boil. You want it warm but not so hot it kills the yeast.
Step 2: add milk to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add yeast and honey and stir few seconds. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix until just combined on low. Leave for 1 hour - you don't need to cover it just leave it in the stand mixer for 1 hour.
Step 3: add 3 eggs, mahlab, salt and remaining 2 cups flour. Mix on slow at first and then let the machine go on high for 4 minutes.
Step 4: add cubed butter, zests of lemon and orange, orange juice, vanilla paste (try to find this paste because it is a great product and it is full of the vanilla seeds which I like to see) and mix. Start on low and then on high for at least a minute.
Step 5: change the paddle and attach the dough hook. Add 2 cups of the additional flour at the bottom of the recipe. Start on low to avoid a big cloud of flour and then mix on high for 5 minutes. Then feel it to see how wet it is. I added 1/4 cup of flour more and mixed with the mixer and then rolled out with the final 1/4 cup on the counter for a couple of minutes. I used a total of 5 1/2 cups of flour and I live in the prairies which is pretty dry. You may need to add more depending on the humidity in your kitchen. The dough is soft and gorgeous and although still a bit on the wet side when done. It has so much butter in it that it will no longer stick.  
Step 6: let rise until double in size 2-3 hours.
Step 7: punch down and divide into two loaves and then into 3 or 5 depending on how you want to braid it. Typically you would add red hard boiled eggs to the bread but, I like it plain. 
Step 8: form braid and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap on the side of the bread so it wont stick and let double again. 1 hour
Step 9: brush with egg yolk and 1 tbsp water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Step 10: bake at 350 degrees F for  20-25 minutes. Let cool before eating.


Step 1: in a small sauce pan heat milk to 100 degrees - do not let it boil. You want it warm but not so hot it kills the yeast.

Step 2: add milk to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add yeast and honey and stir few seconds. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix until just combined on low. Leave for 1 hour - you don't need to cover it just leave it in the stand mixer for 1 hour.


Step 3: add 3 eggs, mahlab, salt and remaining 2 cups flour. Mix on slow at first and then let the machine go on high for 4 minutes.


Step 4: add cubed butter, zests of lemon and orange, orange juice, vanilla paste (try to find this paste because it is a great product and it is full of the vanilla seeds which I like to see) and mix. Start on low and then on high for at least a minute


Step 5: change the paddle and attach the dough hook. Add 2 cups of the additional flour at the bottom of the recipe. Start on low to avoid a big cloud of flour and then mix on high for 5 minutes. Then feel it to see how wet it is. I added 1/4 cup of flour more and mixed with the mixer and then rolled out with the final 1/4 cup on the counter for a couple of minutes. I used a total of 5 1/2 cups of flour and I live in the prairies which is pretty dry. You may need to add more depending on the humidity in your kitchen. The dough is soft and gorgeous and although still a bit on the wet side when done. It has so much butter in it that it will no longer stick.


Step 6: let rise until double in size 2-3 hours. It is more important to allow the dough to double in size rather than be exact with the time.


Divide your dough into two loaves, then into 3 or 5 pieces each depending on whether you will make a braid with 3 or 5 ropes.


Step 7: punch down and divide into two loaves and then into 3 or 5 depending on how you want to braid it. Typically you would add red hard boiled eggs to the bread but, I like it plain.

To braid with 5 you divide dough into ropes of 2 and ropes of 3. Then you take the outside rope in the row with 3 and place it to the inside of the group of 2 ropes. Repeat.

Step 8: form braid and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap on the side of the bread so it wont stick and let double again. 1 hour



Step 9: brush with egg yolk and 1 tbsp water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Step 10: bake at 350 degrees F for  20-25 minutes. Let cool before eating.

This bread can also be frozen easily. Let cool completely and freeze in ziploc bags.


















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