Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tsoureki - τσουρέκι

While everyone is out and about for Easter, I'm chained to my laptop pretending to do homework, while in reality messing around with Photoshop. Okay, it's not really all that bad. For one, I have two whole Tsoureki's in this house. It's one of the most fragrant breads I've ever made or seen or tasted. Admittedly it's not a versatile bread: it's sweet so all you can really put on it is sugar or Nutella. But the smell and that soft taste, it makes up for everything.


You might not have any mahlepi (it's a spice, made from ground St. Lucie cherry seeds) anywhere in your house or even know where to find it. I have the luxury of my other half living on the Greekish side of the world so I can always beg him to send me some. Traditionally the fragrant mahlepi is used in Tsoureki. However, vanilla is a popular flavour for tsoureki even in Greece. So we can totally get away with our lack of mahlepi!

Tsoureki
1 loaf - adapted from Bread

450-500 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon dried yeast (7 grams)
zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons mahlepi *
175 ml milk
50 grams butter
40 grams sugar
2 eggs

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon water

1. Combine all the dry ingredients. Put them into a bread machine pan with the milk.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the butter to the bread machine pan and turn it on dough setting. (Alternatively, knead the bread by hand for 10-15 minutes until elastic. Since the bread is very sticky, you might have some troubles with this. Keep kneading until it stops sticking and use more flour if needed.) Leave to rise for about 2 hours until doubled in size.
4. Once the dough has risen, knead again for a few minutes to get rid of the large air pockets. Place back in a bowl or bread pan and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
5. Gently knead the dough to get rid of the air again. Divide into three equal pieces (a weighing scale helps!). Shape every piece into a long cylinder and braid them together. To make the ends look prettier you can fold the ends under the bread. Place the bread on a baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.
6. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with honey and water.
7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Once risen, place the bread in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. Brush the bread with the egg wash in the last 10 minutes of baking to give it a nice shine.
8. Leave to cool before serving.

* Can be substituted with anise, cinnamon or cardamom (or combination). Vanilla and mastic flavoured Tsoureki are also common in Greece.

Funnily enough there is a Greek Christmas bread 'Vasilopita' which also uses mahlepi. It makes me wonder whether using the same, or at least a very similar, bread for both Easter and Christmas is some sort of universal truth.

Coloured Eggs
Traditionally, Tsoureki has red eggs 'braided' into the bread. Place about 3 red eggs on top of the bread at step 5, before leaving it to rise.

3 eggs
1 scant tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon red foodcolouring
(olive) oil

1. Boil the eggs slowly on medium or even low heat for 10 minutes. The water can boil lightly, but make sure your eggs don't break!
2. Mix the vinegar with the foodcolouring.
3. After 10 minutes, place the eggs on a wire rack. Don't leave them to cool, but the water needs to evaporate. Roll them into food colouring until completely red and then place them back on the rack to cool.
4. Brush lightly with oil before using.

I'm ashamed I don't have a picture of the bread as a whole, as it's quite a beautiful bread to look at, but Tsoureki is braided and decorated red-coloured eggs inbetween the folds. The egg-wash gives it a dark shine and the orange and mahlepi together give a wonderful aroma. I'll have to bake it again to be able to show you! (that's not a bad idea..)

I hope you're having or will have a Very Happy Easter! In case you're not celebrating Easter, I hope you have a very lovely weekend in stead and get to enjoy the weather! (It's looking like Spring here!)

4 comments:

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    1. Woah, thanks for stopping by! Happy Easter to you too! :D

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  2. I've never heard of Tsoureki, and I'm so intrigued! Your description of it as soft and sweet and fragrant are so alluring, plus I'm really curious about the eggs braided into it! Very cool! Thanks for another wonderful post - I always learn something from you! :D

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    1. I still haven't made a new one so I can show off that braiding! But to be fair, it isn't Easter anymore - can you forgive me? I really hope you get to try something with mahlepi once though, Im sure you'll love it~ :D

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