This is a traditional Easter bread served in Greece to break the Lenten fast. It is traditionally braided, with a red-dyed*, hard-boiled egg inserted at one end, and then baked. Beautiful to look at - delicious to eat. Like many yeast breads, these loaves require two risings, so take that into consideration when timing to make them. I like to eat it most at breakfast, with a piece of graviera (a Greek cheese resembling Swiss) and a huge glass of ice-cold milk. A bite of tsoureki; a nibble of cheese; a swallow of cold milk - heaven!!!
- 2 cups milk
- 2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
- 8 -9 cups bread flour
- 1 3⁄4 cups sugar
- 1 cup almonds, very finely chopped (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 orange, zest of, grated
- 2 teaspoons finely ground anise seed or 1 tablespoon mahlepi
- 1 teaspoon ground masticha (optional)
- 1⁄4 cup butter, melted
- 5 eggs, very well beaten
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 -3 tablespoons milk
- 1⁄2 cup slivered almonds
- Warm two cups of milk and place in a large bowl. Add the yeast, one cup of the flour, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cover and proof for one hour.
- In a large bowl, combine seven cups of flour, the ground almonds, salt, remaining sugar, orange rind, aniseed or mahlepi and masticha (if using). Make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, melted butter and eggs. Work from the center outwards, bringing flour into the well, stirring the mixture until a dough begins to form.
- Dust a worksurface with a little of the remaining flour and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and doesn't stick to your hands, about 12 minutes.
- Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours. Punch down dough.
- Divide into six small balls and roll each into strips 12-15 inches long, and about 2 inches in diameter. Lay three strips side by side, pinching together at one end, and braid. Pinch together at the other end to hold the loaf intact.
- Optional: At this point you can press two red-dyed eggs between the strips of the braid or just leave the braided loaf plain.
- Repeat the procedure to make the second loaf.
- Place the breads on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered, and let rise for two hours, or until doubled in bulk. While the braids are rising, preheat oven to 360F (180°C), placing rack on lower shelf of oven.
- Beat together the egg yolk and remaining milk. Brush over tsoureki loaves and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. I check my breads after about 15 minutes as they do tend to colour quickly and drape them with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove and cool on racks.
- *The special red dye used by Greeks to dye Easter eggs, as well as the spices Mahlepi (Mahleb) and Masticha can be found at all good ethnic grocery stores and in the Penzeys Catalague.
I have been desperately looking for a bread recipe that would produce results similar to the recipe that my grandmother brought over from Greece. My grandmother passed away and my mother had a stroke and couldn't remember how to make it. I was too young when my grandmother was alive to have written the recipe down. We tried many recipes but couldn't find the right mix and proportion of ingredients. I asked my husband to search the net for Tsoureki recipes as Easter was coming up. He found several, but I chose this one because the ingredients looked similar to the ones my grandmother used (particularly the masticha and mahlep). The bread turned out phenomenally. The loaves truly are enormous. They took the entire width of the oven. The next time I do this recipe, I will likely make six smaller loave instead of the two large ones, as we give Tsoureki to family members for Easter. My father, not having any faith in me (because I had tried so many recipes in the past), bought eight loves from a Greek bakery and payed close to $10 Canadian per loaf. The consensus of the entire family (including my father) was that of all the bread that anyone had given us or that we had purchased, this recipe was by far the best and truly reminded us all of my grandmother's bread. I must also say that I found this recipe to be virtually foolproof. This was the first time that I had attempted to make bread in years and it came out perfectly on the first try. My first cousin, who was raised in Greece even asked for the recipe so that she could pass it on to her Mother-inlaw who spent most of her adult life in Greece. Thank you Evelyn for helping helping us recover a cherished family recipe. Mary C. (Thorhill, Ontario)
Okay, I have to say this recipe was AMAZING!!!!! I am greek and decided to make tsoureki for the first time with my 3 year old son for our greek Easter. My mother offered her recipe, which is really good, but there really is no recipe. A little of this and a little of that. I can't bake like that!! So I found this recipe and decided to go for it. My bread turned out amazing!!! My mom said that the key to a good tsoureki is when you break it open and there are "strings" inside and not bubbles like regular bread. Well, my bread had more "strings" than my mother's!! :) I made one large, and 2 small ones. Next time I will make 4 small ones as the large one came out HUGE!!! I left out the anise and added an extra 1/4 cup sugar. I also put slivered almonds on top and brushed them with the 2 egg yolks.(as suggested by a reviewer) I kneaded it by hand as it was to much for my kitchen aid mixer. By far, an amazing and easy recipe. Thanks!!
This is the first time I have made this bread, though I have fond memories of eating it as a teenager in my Greek girlfriend's kitchen. I found the recipe easy to follow and actually had all the ingredients at home - ground my own aniseed seeds. I am glad I made half the recipe as it turned out to be a huge loaf. I found the rising times suggested much longer than necessary and I cooked it at 170C which is a bit cooler than the suggested 360F. Flavour, texture etc just beautiful. And what a delightful aroma throughout the house! An excellent recipe thank you. Now I have had a practice run, I will make it again for Easter - with the red egg.