Greek Easter Bread [Vegan Delight Edition]

Greek Easter Bread

Greek Easter Bread [Vegan Delight Edition]

Tsoureki, traditionally known as Greek Easter bread, is a culinary delight that transforms every Easter celebration.

This amazing bread boasts a soft and fluffy interior, complemented by a brown, semi-soft crust that adds just the right texture.

Renowned for its flavourful and stringy texture, tsoureki is not just for the holiday; it’s popular all year round, making a delicious mid-day snack or the perfect companion to your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

The three braids symbolize the Holy Trinity, embedding deep cultural significance into every bite.

What Is Tsoureki Bread?

Tsoureki, also known as authentic Greek Easter bread, is much more than just bread; it’s a sweeter, brioche-like delight that holds a special place during Easter celebrations.

This enriched bread, teeming with eggs and butter, becomes a much-awaited treat after the forbidden indulgences of the 48-day Lenten season.

Traditionally, recipes for Tsoureki come alive with unique flavoring ingredients such as mastic and mahleb, which are now more accessible through the internet and Middle Eastern grocers.

My journey through various recipes showed that while each recipe might add its own Egyptian twist, like adding anise seed, these variations aren’t too foreign to Greek baking traditions, often reminiscent of the subtle use of fennel seed.

Traditions & Greek Easter Bread

In the heart of the Mediterranean, Greek Orthodox Christians come together to celebrate Easter, a time brimming with traditions and joy.

The celebration pivots around a special midnight mass, followed by either a festive family dinner or a super early breakfast, where Greek Easter bread, or Tsoureki, often plays the starring role.

Not only does this bread complement the meat dishes typically served during these gatherings, but it also sits alongside popular soup, such as magiritsa, made from the organs of lamb.

As the Easter Sunday dawns, lunch becomes a feast with copious amounts of lamb and red-dyed eggs aplenty.

In a playful, yet meaningful manner, family members crack eggs against each other, echoing the greeting, “Christos Anesti” (“Christ has risen”), met with the response, “Alithos Anesti” (“Indeed, he did!”).

It’s a time when friends and family supply and share Greek extra virgin olive oil, marking its appearance as a symbol of life and renewal.

greek easter bread with red egg

Greek Easter Bread Recipe

Greek Easter Bread Ingredients

For The Dough

  • 24g (0.85 oz) active dry yeast
  • 110g (3.9 oz) warm water
  • 3g (0.1 oz) mastic, finely ground (available online)
  • 10g (0.35 oz) mahleb, finely ground (available online)
  • 135g (4.7 oz) room-temperature cow’s milk butter, cubed
  • 230g (8.1 oz) sugar
  • 150g (5.3 oz) room-temperature milk
  • 4 medium eggs at room temperature, weighing 200g (7 oz) without shells
  • 870g (30.6 oz) bread flour
  • Zest from one orange

For Garnishing

  • 1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • Almond slivers

For The Syrup

  • 150g (5.3 oz) sugar
  • 150g (5.3 oz) water

Instructions

  • Start by preparing the yeast In a bowl, combine lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar, and yeast. Stir gently and wrap the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 6-7 minutes until it’s bubbling. Ensure the water is not too hot to kill the yeast, nor too cold to delay the rise. The water should feel like there’s no difference in temperature when you dip your finger in.
  • Use a pestle or blender to finely ground masticha and mahlepi with a pinch of sugar. These aromatic spices give the Tsoureki its distinctive taste and amazing smell. Remember, too much mastic can impart a bitter taste.
  • In a saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and milk. Warm over low heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. It’s crucial to melt the butter on low heat to prevent killing the yeast. Once removed from the heat, ensure the mixture is lukewarm—the same temperature as your finger. If it’s too warm, let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Whisk the lukewarm butter mixture into a large bowl with eggs and the activated yeast mixture until combined.
  • In your mixer’s bowl, add flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest, and the butter-egg-yeast mixture. Using a dough hook, start mixing at low speed, then increase to medium-high speed for about 15 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be soft and slightly sticky. Avoid adding more flour than recommended; the dough should be soft, not firm.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in a warm environment to rise. It should double in size in about 3-4 hours. If your environment is cold, you can preheat your oven to 30C/85F, turn it off, and place the bowl inside.
  • Once risen, deflate the tsoureki dough with your hands and cut it into 6 equal portions. Roll and stretch each portion into a rope using the hands-from-edges shake This helps to create the Tsoureki’s characteristic stringy texture.
  • Form each set of three ropes into a braid, placing each on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper. Allow the braids to rise again at room temperature or in the oven until they puff up and double in size.
  • Prepare an egg wash by whisking an egg with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl. Brush the top of each Tsoureki with the egg wash, sprinkle with almond slivers, and bake in a preheated oven at 150C / 310F fan for 30-40 minutes. The bread should be nicely browned and fluffy. Use parchment paper to cover if the bread browns too quickly.
  • While traditional Tsoureki doesn’t typically include syrup, drizzling a little on the hot Tsoureki as it comes out of the oven can add a delightful touch. To make the syrup, boil sugar and water in a small pot until the sugar dissolves. Ladle the hot syrup over the hot Tsoureki for an extra layer of sweetness.
  • Allow the Tsoureki to cool down before wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap to prevent it from becoming hard and dry. It can be stored at room temperature for 5-6 days or in the freezer for a couple of months.

What Gives Tsoureki Its Unique Flavour?

The heart of Greek Easter bread with anise, or Tsoureki, lies in its full, rich flavour, a testament to the aromatic spices that have been used traditionally in its recipe.

Mastic and mahlab, derived from masticha on the island of Chios and cherry seeds respectively, offer a characteristic smell and distinctive taste that permeates the house with intense aromas, evoking wonderful childhood memories.

These ingredients, freshly ground and sourced from grocers or online, provide a sharp, sweet essence that is unmistakably Tsoureki.

How To Make The Perfect Greek Easter Bread Dough?

Contrary to the common myth that making your own Greek Easter bread with red egg is challenging, even for the experienced cook, experience has shown that with the right recipe, success is guaranteed first time.

This no-fail recipe, supported by detailed prep photos, demystifies the process, proving that crafting the perfect Tsoureki dough is within reach of anyone willing to try.

Helpful Tips For Authentic Greek Easter Bread

  • When adding extra flour to the dough, be cautious. Too much can make your Tsoureki less soft and tender.
  • Oil your hands and the counter to prevent the dough from sticking, making it easier to work with.
  • Utilize a bowl scraper and a bench scraper to keep your work surface clean and manage the sticky dough more effectively.
  • To shape the Tsoureki, roll the dough into logs and taper the ends before braiding. This helps in achieving the perfect shape.
  • If the dough springs back while rolling, let it rest for a while. It becomes easier to work with after taking a short break.

How To Get The Right Tsoureki Dough Consistency?

Tsoureki, the traditional Greek Easter bread, is cherished for its soft, stringy texture that you can tear apart by hand.

Achieving this texture requires extra strong white bread flour with a high gluten (protein) content—ideally 13%.

This not only helps the bread hold its shape when baked but also contributes to its amazingly stringy texture.

A common mistake by novices is using more flour than needed, which results in a dough that’s too sticky and could lead to loosing its fluffiness.

Remember, kneading for about 15 minutes is crucial to reach the desired consistency.

How To Prove Your Tsoureki Dough To Perfection?

Proving tsoureki dough to perfection involves a meticulous balance of temperature, active yeast, and time.

The journey begins in a lukewarm water bowl, where a pinch of sugar is dissolved, acting as food for the yeast.

This activating process is crucial; the mixture should start bubbling within minutes under cling film cover, signaling that the yeast is alive and ready to work its magic.

Proofing the dough properly is important to achieve that light, airy texture—a hallmark of tsoureki.

It requires two proves: the bulk fermentation, taking about 3-4 hours in a warm environment, and a final rise after shaping, where the loafs should double in size and become puffed, ensuring the inside is light and fluffy.

Speeding up the process by placing the covered mixer bowl in an oven with the light on or preheated to 30C/85F can accelerate dough proofing, but patience is key to letting it grow and shape correctly.

How To Shape Your Tsoureki Dough?

  • The secret to achieving the perfect tsoureki involves not just the ingredients but the shaping process that gives it its stringy texture and fluffy consistency.
  • Start by weighing the dough and cutting it into equal pieces. This ensures uniformity in size and baking times for each tsoureki.
  • Form each piece into a ball and roll it with your hands to create a smooth surface. Then, stretch the dough gently by shaking it from the edges, transforming it into a rope.
  • Align the gluten fibers horizontally by stretching, which contributes to the delicious texture. Shape these ropes into tight braids, carefully preventing the dough from expanding sideways during baking.
  • Providing enough space for the dough to grow during proofing and baking is essential. These steps help ensure that the tsoureki maintains its desired shape and texture.

greek easter bread with anise

How Long Does Tsoureki Last?

Tsoureki, known for its softness and delightful taste, can last for about 5 to 6 days when kept at its top softness.

The key to prolonging its freshness is to cover it tightly with cling film to prevent it from becoming stiff and stale.

For those who have made a large batch and wonder about preservation, freezing it wrapped in cling film is an effective method, allowing it to remain fresh for up to 2 months.

To revitalise an old slice, a quick warm-up in the microwave for a few seconds brings back its softness.

For an extended shelf life, garnishing your Greek Easter bread with syrup can keep it moist and fresh for up to 2 weeks.

Stuff It With Chocolate!

To add an extra twist to your tsoureki, consider stuffing it with chocolate spread.

As you stretch and flatten the braids with a rolling pin, adding a thin strip of Nutella before folding and pinching the dough back into shape creates a delectable surprise within each bite.

This method not only enhances the flavor but also introduces a delightful texture contrast, making the tsoureki even more irresistible.

Whether as a sweet breakfast option or a luxurious treat, this chocolate-stuffed variation promises to elevate your Greek Easter bread experience.

How To Serve Greek Easter Bread Recipe?

Greek Easter Bread, known as Tsoureki, has transcended its traditional holiday roots to become a popular treat year-round in Greece.

Whether mass-produced or homemade, it’s often served at breakfast with boiled eggs, feta, and honey, showcasing the versatile ways to enjoy this delicious bread.

FAQs About Greek Easter Bread With Red Egg

1. What Is The Significance Of Easter Bread?

The significance of Tsoureki lies in its deep symbolism. The braid represents the Holy Trinity, with each of the three-ropes symbolizing a person of this sacred concept. The egg in the center, often dyed red, symbolizes Christ’s resurrection and the rebirth of Spring, making it a rich emblem of Easter’s meaning and symbolism.

2. What Is The History Of Greek Easter Bread?

Originating from Greece, the tradition of Tsoureki can be traced back to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). The crimson eggs that adorn the bread are a custom from Byzantium, symbolizing the blood of Christ, eternity, and fertility. The three long dough cords, when braided together, further emphasize the holy trinity, intertwining history with custom.

3. Why Is Greek Bread Yellow?

The yellow hue of Greek bread, particularly Tsoureki, comes from the semolina flour used in the recipe, giving it a beautiful and hearty appearance. The amazing smell that fills the house during baking is a testament to its deliciousness, making it a favorite in both homemade and store-bought forms.

4. How Long Does Greek Bread Last?

When properly stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature, commercially packaged pita bread can maintain its freshness and softness for about 5 to 7 days. However, it may start to become stale after a few days, indicating the importance of storage.

5. Why Is My Tsoureki Dense?

A Tsoureki becomes dense rather than soft and fluffy when too much flour is added. The dough should be sticky; resist the temptation to add extra flour, and instead, use cooking oil on your hands to prevent sticking.

6. Why Is My Tsoureki Bitter?

Bitterness in Tsoureki can result from using rancid Mahlepi or Mahleb, or too much mastic. It’s best to purchase whole Mahlepi and grind only what you need to avoid quick spoilage and maintain the sweet taste of this Greek Easter bread.

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