This year, Greek Orthodox Easter is on May 1st, right in the heart of spring! It’s the best time, weather wise that is, to celebrate a feast in which the Greeks are so much dedicated. Which means, that yes, Easter is the Greeks’ favorite religious day!
As to what’s traditional to bake in the pastry area, we have our Easter cookies (which we had posted a couple of years ago) and a sweetbread which is unbelievably delicious! It’s called “tsoureki” , it resembles other sweetbreads but the best part of it is that it is flavored with mastic and mahleb. These two basic ingredients make the “tsoureki” unique and an absolute gourmet sensation!
Here’s our recipe!
35 gr fresh yeast (at room temperature, as all ingredients)
30 gr sugar
80 ml lukewarm water
1 kilo all purpose flour
250 gr butter
250 gr sugar
3 large free range eggs
350 gr full fat milk
3 gr ground mastic
4 gr ground mahleb
Some butter more (melted)
1 free range egg beaten
The key element in order to make the perfect tsoureki is that all ingredients should be at room temperature and the water used should be lukewarm or else the yeast will not be activated.
In a bowl add the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar (the 30 gr), mix gently in order that yeast is dissolved and set aside for about 10 minutes, until the yeast starts bubbling.
In a saucepan add butter, sugar and milk. Be careful that the temperature is very low. All we want is that the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. The temperature of the mixture should not be above 35 degrees. If you have a kitchen thermometer use it. Otherwise test the temperature of the mixture with your finger- they should have the same temperature. If you feel it warmer then leave it to cool for a few minutes.
Pour the mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture. Whisk again.
In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahleb. Add the mixture from the large bowl. Use the dough hook mix at low speed, until the ingredients are combined. Mix at medium-high speed for about 10 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. The dough is soft at this point. If the dough seems a little sticky don’t add flour. When removing the dough from the bowl just butter your fingers so it can be removed easier.
Place in a bowl, cover and let it double in volume for at least 2-3 hours.
Deflate the dough and cut into 6 pieces. Take one piece and roll with your hands. Stretch the dough into a rope. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid (for a more traditional look) and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the other pieces. Let the braids rise for about one hour at room temperature until they doubles their size.
Preheat the oven at 160 degrees.
Beat an egg. Gently brush the tsoureki breads with the egg, garnish with almond slivers for about 45 minutes until they’ve got a nice golden-brown color.
They’re great as a treat with coffee or tea, served at breakfast with marmalade or even used at French toasts! Utterly delicious!