Greek Easter Bread *Tsoureki April 17, 2014

Sweet Delicious Easter Bread

(Tsoureki) Greek Easter  Bread Greek Easter Bread  Tsoureki  

One of the best breads ever made is the Greek Sweet Easter Bread (Tsoureki). The flavor of this bread is sweet and has a soft texture like Brioche or Challah, this recipe is only made during Easter. The two flavors of Makhlepi and Mastica are what make this delicious sweet bread unique.  Makhlepi is the essence that comes from the seed of  Mediterranean wild cherries. Mastic also known as #Pistacia Lentiscus is the resin from a small shrub or tree grown mainly on the Greek Island of Chios. Mastic has a texture that can become gummy so they make a mastic chewing gum that looks like regular chewing gum.  I remember when I was young my Mom had bought the mystic gum from the Greek store. Well I thought it was regular chewing gum, boy was I shocked…. not quite the flavor of Wriggleys!!  Yet Tsoureki is not Greek Easter bread without these flavors laced through out this bread dough. The Greeks traditional share their own Tsoureki as a gift to friends and family.  Today most buy Tsoureki from the Church or their local Greek Grocery Store or Bakery. My mother bought many loaves and had to hide a few so we would not eat it all before Easter.

 Growing up my mother never made Tsoureki, and would buy her 4 or 5 loaves from the Church. The women of the #Philoptochos make it every year as a fund raiser. The #Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society is the largest  Philanthropic Women’s organization in the United States and 2nd in the World. The women are amazing bakers and use recipes handed down from past generations.

As many of you know, my forte is not baking. I can bake anything, but prefer to create other recipes that do not require exact measurements to achieve success. Although since starting the Blog, I have had to change my ways and document exact measurements. So no more directions that might say… “5 shakes, 6 drops, just eyeball it or a shot glass full” these don’t exactly help anyone create the perfect dish, haha!

With that said, I have to say that my dear mother-in-law, Maria Apostolou had recipes that were old, tattered and held together with rubber bands. They were written in Greek and she had to carefully piece a few of them together to read me the ingredient. There was no science and some of the measurements were far from exact. I laugh when I think of her Tsoureki recipe for her measurement for milk was ” one quart minus 3 fingers” lol. She would actually hold 3 fingers up against the carton of milk to measure. Also, any liquor that her recipes called for were always measured with a shot glass or a juice glass, it all worked and her breads were delicious.

Easter Bread Tsoureki Maria taught me to bake many things, but Tsoureki was her favorite, we made it every year for Easter. We were going on our 15th year when she passed away. She was very religious and very superstitious, so when she would unpack her bags of ingredients it always included about 3 or 4 Religious Icons. She would put these around the bowls of dough rising to insure the powers above brought the dough higher and higher, haha! Baking Greek Easter Bread was a tradition between us that I cherished, it became a family affair for one of the most important steps required in making this bread.

We made 25-30 loaves every year, we had friends and family that looked forward to our bread every Easter. This required a lot of dough and a lot of kneading, so we recruited the kids and just about anyone that happened to enter the kitchen. It was hysterical, I remember a couple of there friends rolled up their sleeves, washed their hands and in the dough they went! 

Greek Easter Bread TsourekiNow we had 25 pans of dough all in front of the fireplace. We made a tent with blankets to keep the heat in and the Icons were place all around the blankets. Oh Yes, it was quite a display and quickly became a conversation piece for everyone coming and going during this baking ritual, lol.  It was all worth it, for our Tsoureki turned out  sweet and delicious.She never braided her dough, she always used the same round metal cake pans. So in honor of her I always make a few round loaves in those pans and then braid a few. I  no longer make 25-30 loaves, just 7-8 and my Kitchen aid does all the kneading, good thing!!

I miss my mother-in-law Maria Apostolou very much and this Blog post is dedicated to her. Today also happens to be her Birthday…..Happy Birthday Mom, I love you!

Greek Easter Bread   Tsoureki

prep time: 30 min                       Bake time: 35 min             yield: 6-7 loaves

3 packets yeast packets

6 cups whole milk

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 tbsp. mastic

1 tbsp. makhlepi

8 large eggs seperated

13 cups of flour

3 eggs plus 1 tbsp. milk for egg wash

1 cup sesame seeds

IMG_2474Greek Easter Bread TsourekiDirections: Microwave 2 cups of the milk until warm 110 degrees, add yeast and 1 cup of flour and mix well. Put in the oven or warm place until double, around 30 min. In a spice grinder, grind the mastic and makhlepi into a fine powder. Place the butter in your kitchen-aid with the mixer padle or beat with hand mixer. Beat butter for about 5 minutes, then add the sugar, makhlepi and mastic powder, beat for an  additional 5 minutes. You should have a light fluffy mixture, then slowly add the egg yolks, continue beating and scraping bowl. Now add egg whites and beat 4-5 minutes more. Heat the remaining 4 cups milk in microwave, add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture and stir well.

IMG_2466IMG_2473With Kitchen-aid  on low slowly add the milk/yeast mixture to the butter mixture,  mix for 2-3 minutes until well blended. If using a Kitchen-aid change paddle to the dough hook.  Now add flour 2 cups at a time, mixing after each addition. My kitchen aid takes all 12 cups before it starts to strain a bit. Turn off and turn dough onto a lightly floured board. knead for an additional 4-5 minutes until soft and elastic. Ok, now is the time to incorporate family, friends or anyone walking by to help knead that dough!!

 

Place in a oiled bowl and let rise until doubled ,2 hours, now punch down and separate into 6 or 7 pieces. Place in pans or shape into a braid. let rise again until double 1 hour. Now brush with egg wash and top with sesame seeds. Bake at degrees for 30-minutes. A traditional Red dyed egg is placed in the dough before baking to represent the blood of Christ. My mother-in-law never followed this tradition, so I don’t either.

I hope you enjoy this Easter Bread and may you be inspired to begin a tradition of your own!

Happy Easter,   Easter Bread TsourekiGreek Easter Bread Tsoureki

Cheff Steff

 

 

 

 

 
 

Comment (2)

  1. by Your Goddaughter Anna

    I’ve been looking for a Tsoureki recipe and after reading this will search no more 🙂 I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to try this this year, but DEFINITELY next year. I loved the blog…great read. And as for YiaYia Maria, may her memory be eternal. Love you!!!

  2. We have wonderful memories of the delicious breads you and Maria made. So glad you have such special memories of your time with her. We’re making Gluten Free Easter bread this year (your basic recipe modified with GF flour) Will let you know how it turns out.

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