Greek Easter is impossible to enjoy without Tsoureki, is a sweet, egg-enriched bread and is formed of braided strands of dough. Tsoureki is a traditional Easter bread served in Greece to break the Lenten fast.
This is a tried and tested recipe that my mom has been using for decades. I baked my very first batch a few years ago but cut the recipe in half because my mom’s recipes make about 15 loaves!
Tsoureki Greek Sweet Easter Bread
1 ½ packets yeast (equivalent to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
½ cup milk, room temperature
½ pound room-temperature butter
6 eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
Rind of 1 orange
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 packet Mahlab (Mahlepi), smashed – available at Greek bakeries and on Amazon
About 2 1/2 pounds of white flour, or more (about 10 cups or so)
2 egg whites
1 package sesame seeds
Note: It’s best to prepare the dough in the early evening and allow to rise overnight. Also, make sure eggs and butter are left out at room temperature earlier in the day.
Place yeast in a warmed pot first; add the water to the yeast, and teaspoon of sugar. My mom pours the water into the post from high above so it can bubble. Let rise for 20 minutes.
In an extra-large bowl, beat the butter, then add sugar. One by one beat in eggs. Add orange rind and then add milk. Then, add Mahlepi. Add yeast mixture and extra 2 tbsp of butter.
Add flour little by little until blended and not sticky. Place the bowl over a pizza pan and put a garbage bag over the whole thing to rise in the oven (don’t turn on!). The plastic bag and pizza pan will stop the dough from pouring out all over the oven. About halfway through the rise, punch the dough down so it can rise again. Let dough rise overnight.
The next morning, pull the dough out. By handful, roll out the dough and tie into braids. Place braided loaves into greased loaf pans and let rise again for another two hours.
Beat egg whites, and then brush on top of loaves. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so.
The 10-cup flour recipe will make 15 loaves. My suggestion is to cut this recipe in half for the first time.