Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

I made this bread replacing the butter that is normally part of the recipe with a mild buttery olive oil. It turned out exceptionally well and I will make this recipe again. Big Pete loved this sweet orange and lemon scented sweet bread so I knew it was a good enough recipe to share.

You will need:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg traditional dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can add part of this as vanilla sugar if you like)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mahlepi/mahleb (optional but makes it truly exceptional!)
  • 1/4 tsp mastic powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mild buttery olive oil – I used Oltremonti Extra Virgin from Corsica
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (organic if possible)
  • 1/2 orange juiced
  • 1/2  tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg plus 1 tbsp water for egg wash
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds or sliced almonds

Step 1: place milk in a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave for 30 seconds – should be slightly warm. Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and stir. Set aside 10 minutes to activate yeast.

Step 2: in a large bowl add dry ingredients: add 4 cups of the flour, sugar , salt, mahlepi and mastic. Stir to combine.

Step 3: in another bowl add wet ingredients: olive oil, eggs, orange juice, lemon and orange zests. Whisk to mix.

Step 4: add activated yeast to flour, start to mix with a wooden spoon (a couple of turns) then add the orange egg mixture. Mix well with the wooden spoon until it is too hard to continue, then turn out the entire mixture onto the counter.

Step 5: add the final 1 cup of flour as necessary until your dough no longer is sticky to the touch. It will take about 5-8 minutes to knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and becomes soft and smooth. I like to use a bench scraper to help clean the board as I mix.

Step 6: place a bit of the same olive oil in a large clean bowl, coat the dough and sides of the bowl with the oil to make sure it doesn’t stick to bowl once it rises. Cover with plastic wrap and leave until double in size. Approximately 2-3 hours.

Step 7: once doubled remove from bowl and cut into 3 equal pieces. You may need a bit more flour (but don’t use too much, it is easier to roll if it is slightly sticky)

Step 8: roll out 3 logs that are 2 feet (24 inches) long. Braid bread. Pinching ends to join. Lightly, cover the dough and let rise another 1 hour. If the dough is too dry you can brush a small amount of oil over top to avoid the plastic wrap from sticking to it.

Step 9: after proofing the second time. Take an egg and a bit of water and whisk. Brush top of bread with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over top. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Let it cool before slicing- I know it’s hard but, this step is important or you will squish the perfect interior.

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