Friday, April 17, 2009

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread



Every year at Easter time, my mother makes a truckload of tsoureki, or Greek sweet bread. I think she makes the best tsoureki in town, but maybe I am a bit on the biased side. With a baby in the family now, and celebrating our first Easter with him, I thought it was important to bake something traditional for the holiday.

I sat down with my mom, and she gave me the ins and outs of her recipe. She even gave me the unique Greek spices that I didn't have in my spice rack. As you can see, there are some odd measurements here : a water glass of oil and 20 soupspoons of sugar. That's just the way it is in a home recipe I think. I eagerly tackled this, and was overjoyed with the results! I can honestly say it is a mirror image of my mom's bread. Sure the braiding isn't as well done, but I never braided anything before, ok? In-fact, I Googled how to braid bread to get the design right. Gotta love Google.

8 Eggs
20 soupspoons sugar
4 teaspoons yeast
1 water glass vegetable oil
1 water glass milk
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 lemon's zest
½ teaspoons anise
½ teaspoon mastihi
½ teaspoon mahlepi
sesame seeds
sliced almonds

1.Warm up the milk (not too hot!) , and add it to a medium bowl which has the yeast. Stir it up a bit. Add 1 cup of flour to that, stir and wait. This mixture is your proof, and will plump up in size and become all frothy and fluffy, in 15 minutes or so.

2.In a large bowl, combine your eggs, sugar, all spices, vanilla, zest and oil. Hand whisk to combine the ingredients together.

3.If your proof is ready, add it to the egg mixture.

4.With one hand, add flour to the mix, one cup at a time. With the other hand, mix the dough together. Keep adding flour until you get a nice soft dough. Your dough should be sticky, but also fairly smooth.

5.Cover dough with a clean cloth, and let rise for at least 2 hours, or until doubled.

6.Once your dough has risen, prepare your baking sheets. I used Silpat® sheets, but you could also line your baking pan with parchment paper, or use a non-stick spray. Sprinkle the baking surface with sesame seeds.

7.Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 5 equal parts each part represents a loaf. Form each loaf into a braid or whatever shape you like, and place on baking sheet. (Try braiding, as it is the tradition, and looks impressive!)

8.
Let these loaves rise another 2 hours, or until doubled.

9.Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Apply an egg wash to the surface of each loaf, and sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced almonds on the top.

10.Bake for 22 minutes. (Test doneness by inserting a knife and making sure it comes out clear.) Do not over bake! If the bread browns to quickly, avoid burning by laying tin foil on top.

This bread is great for dipping in tea or coffee, or just simply munching on its own. You'll also love the aromatics that will fill your home – a very fond memory of my childhood.

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