Greek Easter Bread- Tsoureki
The tradition of making Easter Bread goes way back to when I was a teenager and I would camp out with my cousin on the living room floor waiting for the timer to go off so we could proof and bake these fragrant loaves. It seemed like such an accomplishment in those days. It is not Easter in our house without them. I hope you enjoy.
2 cups bread flour +more for kneading
900 gm all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (250 ml)
3 tbsp. sugar (45 ml)
3 pkgs active dry yeast
360 ml warm milk
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. ground anise(5 ml)
2 tsp mahlepi (10 ml)
1 tsp. ground masticha (available at Greek food shops)(5 ml)
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 2 oranges
2 tsp salt (5 ml)
2/3 cup melted butter (160 ml)
1 beaten egg for brushing bread
Combine the flours in a bowl and set aside. In small bowl, whisk warm water, sugar and yeast, stir and let stand 5 minutes, or until frothy. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with hook.
In another medium bowl whisk, eggs, sugar, spices, grated lemon and orange zest, melted butter and warm milk. Add egg mixture to yeast and add ¾ of flour mixture on low speed. Mix on low until dough is sticky and begins to slide up the hook, about 5 minutes. Add the salt last. Adding flour as needed.
Turn mixture on to well floured surface and knead using flour as required. Dough may not require full amount of flour. Dough should be smooth and elastic but slightly sticky to the touch. Process should take about 10 minutes. Let rest in a well oiled bowl covered with plastic for 1 ½ -2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Gently turn onto unfloured surface. Cut into separate 6 equal portions and cut each of those into 2 ½ ‘ thick strips. Gently hold onto ends of strands and tap gently to stretch. Braid three strands into one braid. .
Transfer braid to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place a hard boiled red tinted Easter egg where seam is. Cover and let wreath rise in a warm place for about 50- 60 minutes or until finger imprint does not spring back.
Brush with beaten egg and bake on middle rack of preheated oven at 325 D on convection, for 33-33 minutes or until brown and hollow sounding when tapped on bottom. Cool completely.
Makes 2 large braids