Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

Greek Easter time is when all my favorite Greek goodies come out.

Last week I shared my favorite cookie of all time, koulourakia, Greek Easter cookies. This week, it’s all about tsoureki, Greek Easter bread. As with all the bread recipes on my blog, my husband made this bread. In fact, it’s his own recipe.

Greek Easter bread is a slightly sweet yeast bread, similar to challah bread. Some people will flavor their Greek Easter bread with specialty ingredients, like masticha and mahleb. Others may flavor their breads with anise, cardamom, vanilla, orange, or even nothing at all. My husband decided to use a combination of vanilla and orange for his recipe. I promise it doesn’t taste like a creamsicle.

How gorgeous is the bread? I love the braided look. And yes, my husband knows how to braid. 🙂 If you look closely in the photo below, you can see the lovely orange zest. It’s the perfect amount, not overpowering, but just enough to know it’s there.

Bread recipes tend to scare people away (including me). Maybe they are afraid that using yeast can make things automatically go wrong. Perhaps they think making a loaf of bread is a horrible complicated process. My husband always happily explains the process when people ask him about it. While there are a fair number of steps and, in general, making bread takes a longer time than most other types of recipes, there really isn’t anything especially difficult about it. In fact, for a lot of the time it takes to make bread, you don’t even need to be in the same room.

To that end, my husband went to great lengths to collect and then modify the important parts of several recipes to come up with this one. I wish you could have seen him applying his bread making knowledge to a pile of recipes, it was quite fun to watch. Muttering to himself as he modified a recipe he said things like “Nope, that takes too long and isn’t needed.” and “I could see that being a pain for someone to do.” and “No one has that ingredient, and I don’t want them to have to go out and get it just to make bread.” The recipe he ended up with, was practically unrecognizable by the time he was done. He crossed things out, rewrote other things, and added more details to make sure it was what he wanted to do. All before he even took out the flour.

In the end, it looks like a lot of steps, but he likes very small steps in his recipes. It’s easier to follow without missing something that is buried in a paragraph long step. Give it a shot and let me know how it turned out. Lather some butter on top and enjoy it with a cup of coffee or tea and I promise you’ll love it.

Tsoureki Recipe
(Makes one loaf, takes around 4 hours.)

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 4 and 1/2 cups of bread flour (1 pound, 4 ounces; or 20 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 of an orange worth of zest, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter (equivalent to 1/4 stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions:

  1. Set up your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
  2. Warm the milk in the microwave until it’s fairly warm to the touch but not hot or boiling.
  3. Pour the 1 cup of warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 packet of yeast to the warm milk and let it bloom for 5 minutes.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave. (Be careful on this one, it’s not a lot of butter and if you aren’t watching it you might end up needing to clean the microwave after a buttersplosion™.)
  6. Add the flour, salt, 3/4 cup of sugar, orange zest, vanilla, melted butter, and 2 eggs to the bowl of the stand mixer.
  7. Run the stand mixer at a low speed until the dough comes together. Usually about a minute or two. (I used speed 2 on my Kitchen Aid mixer.)
  8. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes on medium speed. (I used speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer.)
  9. Prepare a large bowl with the oil in the bottom.
  10. Remove the dough from the bowl of the stand mixer and place it into the oiled bowl. It will be quite sticky. Form the dough into a ball that is covered on all sides with oil.
  11. Cover the bowl with the dough in it with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise for about 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  12. Remove the plastic wrap and and keep it around (you’ll use it again in a few minutes). Punch down the dough and then divide it into 3 equal parts.
  13. Prepare a baking sheet by laying a silicone mat or parchment paper down on it.
  14. Form each part of dough into a long strand that is roughly 20 to 22 inches long (about the length of a baking sheet), and then lay the 3 parts next to each other on the prepared baking sheet.
  15. Pinch the ends of the 3 strands together on one end of the loaf and then braid them. Then pinch the other end together once you are done braiding to help it to stay together.
  16. Cover the loaf on the baking sheet with the plastic wrap you removed earlier.
  17. Leave the loaf somewhere warm to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  18. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  19. Make the glaze by mixing together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon of milk.
  20. Brush the glaze all over the loaf.
  21. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until dark golden brown. The bread should sound hollow when you gently smack it with a wooden spoon.
  22. Remove the bread from the pan and place it onto a wire rack to cool.

Source: My husband

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