Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)
This recipe is featured in Sips for an Easter Feast
- Servings Makes 5 loaves
- Six 7 gram (¼ ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 473 ml (2 cups) half-and-half, lukewarm
- 12 eggs, beaten, plus one extra egg
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) orange zest
- 340 grams (3 cups) confectioners’ sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) ouzo
- 60 ml (¼ cup) metaxa brandy
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vanilla extract
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) orange blossom water
- 2.2 kg (5 pounds) all-purpose flour
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) salt
- 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) ground cinnamon
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) ground/powdered mastic (a Greek flavoring and binder that comes from the resin of a native Greek tree. Available online or in Greek markets.)
- 680 grams (1½ pounds) butter, melted, plus additional for coating bowl and dough
- Sesame seeds for topping
- Red-dyed Greek Easter eggs*
It is traditional part of the Greek Easter celebration to dye and decorate eggs. Red is the most common color as it symbolizes the blood of Christ, and the cross is often drawn on the eggs. There are many other stories about the origin of the tradition, but the brightly dyed and decorated eggs are one of the most dramatic symbols of the holiday. For recipe and instructions go to MyGreekDish.com, usa.greekreporter.com, or just search the web.
1. Preheat oven to 177° (350°F).
2. Dissolve the yeast in 118 ml (1/2 cup) of the half-and- half. Add remainder of half-and-half, eggs, orange zest, confectioners’ sugar, ouzo, metaxa, vanilla, and orange blossom water, and mix well.
3. Sift flour salt, cinnamon and mastic into a large bowl and make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in yeast mixture and stir to blend in flour, gradually adding the melted butter.
4. Mix dough with hands until it comes away easily from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in large buttered bowl. Turn dough over to coat the top with butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
5. After the dough has risen, punch down and turn onto lightly floured surface. Separate into five balls of dough. Knead each one lightly and shape each into a round loaf. Place a red-dyed Greek Easter egg on top and press into dough.
6. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets or in greased, round cake pans. Cover and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
7. Glaze with well-beaten egg and sprinkle each with sesame seeds. Bake for 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.