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Posts Tagged ‘Greek Easter Bread’

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Tsoureki is a Greek bread traditionally baked at Easter.  It has a smilar texture to brioche but not as buttery.  It is either braided as a loaf or braided in a wreath.  Both are brushed with egg wash and decorated with sesame seeds or flaked almonds and studded with red dyed eggs.

I have to date no family recipe to share as my mother never made Tsoureki.  We always had a Tsoureki sent over from Greece for Easter.  Having a dislike of the red eggs I would always steer clear of it.  As with everything, my tastes have changed.  Once a year I like to bake my own Tsoureki (without the red eggs embedded) and it has become a bit of a pilgrimage for me in finding the perfect Tsoureki recipe.  Each year I try a new recipe.  This year I have used the recipe from Stellios Parliaros a very well known Greek patissier.

The recipe comes close to what I am looking for but it didn’t quite have the sweetness.  Also I felt that instead of the single Tsoureki I would probably make two instead as it was rather on the large size.

A word of advise on the mastic.  When grinding it has a tendency to melt and cling and is quite difficult to get off.  Hence I am guessing why the recipe says not to allow the mastic with milk to get too hot.

Both the mahlepi and mastic were hard to find but they give the unique taste to the tsoureki and should not be left out.  They also give an aroma which immediately transports me back to Greece. These two spices really are for me what makes a Tsoureki Greek.

Mahlepi is an aromatic spice which comes from the kernel of seeds of the wild cherry.  The smell is unusual and has a sour note.  The Mastic  is the sap from the Lentisk tree which grows on the island of Chios.  It becomes brittle by the heat of the sun.  Mastic was apparently the original chewing gum hence its ability to stick to my pestle.  Both spices are used in middle eastern and Mediterranean cooking.

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Tsoureki

Ingredients

70g Butter

100ml milk

160g caster sugar

3 eggs

5g ground mahlepi

5g ground mastic

100ml lukewarm water

40g fresh yeast

650g strong flour

1 egg for brushing

Flaked almonds or sesame seeds to decorate

Method

In a saucepan gently heat the milk, butter, sugar mahlepi and mastic making sure the temperature does not rise above 50C

Remove from heat once all the ingredients have melted.  Strain the liquid through a sieve to remove any pieces of mahlepi or mastic set aside.

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and add to the butter, milk, sugar, mahlepi and mastic mixture.

Add the eggs and mix well.

Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well, add the liquid ingredients and knead.

Ideally use a mixer with a dough hook.  The dough is very sticky at first and the secret here is not to add more flour but to continue to knead.  The more you knead the less sticky the dough becomes.   The dough is ready when it stops sticking to your hands.  I also found when handling the dough it helped to flour my hands.

Remove the dough and form it into a ball and place in a clean bowl with some flour sprinkled on the bottom.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise.  It will take about 3 hours to triple in size.

When risen, remove the dough and knead again for a few minutes on a lightly floured board.

Divide into three equal balls.  Roll the balls into three long strands of equal length.

Line the long strands in front of you and pinch them tightly together at one end.  Plait the strands and then finish off pinching them firmly off,  tucking the ends under themselves for neatness.

At this point if red eggs are to be placed in the bread this is the time to do it.  If you attempt to do this after the second rising you will lose the air in the dough.

Place on a baking sheet and leave to rise about one hour until double in size.

Brush with egg very gently avoiding getting any egg wash into the creases.  Sprinkle with flaked almonds/sesame seeds and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour 180C/Gas 4

The Tsoureki is ready when it is golden brown.  I also like to insert a skewer into the middle to check that it comes out clean.

It will keep well for a week in an airtight container.  After a couple of days I tend to slice mine and toast it.

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