Starting today through Easter weekend, I’m going to feature a different Easter bread every Saturday.  Easter breads are a wonderful way to mark the end of Lent – usually containing the things that were forbidden during the 40 days of abstinence such as eggs and sweet things like dried fruit. 

So, this week, we’re starting with the Greek traditional bread called tsourekis.  It has a rich, brioche-like texture, is lightly scented and slightly sweet.  And, the only difficult thing about making this bread is showing self-restraint and not eating an entire loaf straight out of the oven.  I received one recipe from my Twitter-mate, Mark Wright of The Country Cook, but when one of my best friends, Penny of DC’s Hello Cupcake, sent me her family recipe, I had to go with the one I know has been slaved over and perfected by her mother, aunts and ya-ya.  So, give it a go for your very own big, fat Greek Easter!

Tsourekis

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 8 oz butter
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest (Penny’s family secret)
  • 1 tsp ground aniseed
  • 4 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 6 eggs
  • Up to 16 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg + 1 Tbsp milk for eggwash
  • Sliced almonds

In a medium saucepan, heat milk until bubbles form around edge of pan (hot but not boiling).  Stir in sugar, butter, zest, salt and aniseed.  Cool to lukewarm.  In small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water – I give it a good whirl with a whisk or blender to make sure it doesn’t get gloopy.  

In a very large bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy.  Slowly mix in milk mixture, dissolved yeast and 2 cups flour, and blend thoroughly – I find a whisk works well with this to make sure there aren’t any lumps.  Gradually add remaining flour (up to full amount, but not necessarily all of it – it’ll depend on what the humidity that day is like).  Use a wooden spoon until you get to the last cup or two of flour – at that point, turn it out on a well-floured surface and knead the last cup or so in by hand.  It’s going to be sticky, but doing this last bit by hand is easier going than using a spoon.  Anyway, knead 5-10 minutes until smooth, then place in a large, oiled bowl, rolling the dough around to make sure it’s covered with the oil, then cover with plastic wrap and towel, and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 3 hours. 

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Punch down the dough and knead a few times.  Divide dough into 4 parts.  Roll each part gently into a long round rope then double over and twist to make twisty loaves . Place on the prepared sheet pan, cover and let rise again, about an hour, or until doubled.  Brush tops of loaves with egg wash and sprinkle with sliced almonds.  Bake 30-40 minutes, checking progress half-way to see if you need to rotate.  Loaves are done if they sound hollow when tapped and the outside is golden brown. 

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