Friday, April 13, 2012

Greek Easter Bread: Tsoureki

1 packet yeast
1/4 cup warm water

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
grated rind of one orange
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 cup water

7 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole milk, warm
1 stick butter, melted (1/4 lb)
1/2 cup cane sugar
3 eggs

1 egg white
1/4 cup almond slivers (optional)
3 hard boiled eggs dyed red (optional)

This recipe makes one round braided loaf or two rectangular loaves. The red Easter eggs represent Christ's blood.

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, set aside.
Put cinnamon, orange peel, orange extract, cardamon and allspice in 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil. Set aside to cool. Add flour to large glass or wooden bowl, and carve out a well in the center. Whisk together eggs and sugar. Heat 1/2 cup milk and melt butter. Add all wet ingredients to flour well. Combine with your hands, using a wooden spoon to push flour from side of bowl. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased glass or wooden bowl. Knead for 15 minutes or until dough is smooth.

Cover with a towel. Set aside in a warm spot to rise, until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch down. Knead again for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise again.

Shape dough into one round or two rectangular loaves. I separate dough into three balls then roll each ball into even ropes. I then twist each rope together in a braid and form a wreath in a greased pan. Do not flatten. Gently push the hard boiled red Easter eggs into the dough and glaze with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with almond slivers. Set aside to rise again for 30 minutes. Do Not Cover with towel. Bake at 350* for 45 mins. Cool on racks.

Tip: Greek Easter bread is especially good when toasted, buttered, and sprinkled with cinnamon.

I wish I had a picture of the first Tsoureki I ever made, but alas...I don't. There is a story though. As you can see from the recipe, this bread is pretty much a labor of love. A few years ago, my friend Heather happened to be here while I toiled at my first ever attempt. I was so thrilled with how it turned out, and excited to present it to my Greek husband when he got home from work. I was so proud of myself at getting it right. The house had the most amazing aroma. His reaction was about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. He said rather unenthusiastically that it looked "great" and he walked right passed it. Heather jumped to my defense. "GREAT???????" she said....."It's BEAUTIFUL, FANTASTIC, SUPER, AWESOME! She has worked on this Easter bread for hours, and all she gets is 'great?'" Poor hubs didn't know what he'd walked into. It was kind of a set up. In his mind, it was no big deal. This is something he was used to having the sights and smells of at Easter time. His Yia Yia, Mother, and Aunts had him spoiled. The three of us had a big laugh that day. When we broke the bread with his family the next day, everyone enjoyed it. George gave me an extra big squeeze and said it was the best tsoureki he'd ever put into his mouth.

Here are photos I took today showing step by step.

Zesting orange

Wet ingredients into well

Helpers to knead the bread

 3 tbsp red dye with just boiled water & 1/2 cup vinegar to achieve the deep red eggs

Rolled out dough


Happy Greek Easter!

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