If you haven’t tried tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) before, then you are certainly missing out! Soft, fluffy, with a beautiful brown semi-soft crust and an amazing stringy texture...
This is the most flavourful tsoureki recipe you will ever try! Greek Easter bread owes its full and rich flavour to the two aromatic spices used in this traditional tsoureki recipe, mastic and mahlab, which give a really characteristic flavour and smell. Once put in the oven, the intense aromas of the sweet spices permeates the house and brings back childhood memories. Freshly ground mastic (masticha), which is an aromatic spice from Chios island, and aromatic mahlab or mahleb (mahlepi), a spice made from ground seeds of cherry, are essential to prepare this tsoureki recipe, giving the traditional Greek Easter bread its sharp and distinctive taste. (You can purchase mastic and mahlepi at Greek grocers or online. I have included some links in the ingredients section below). Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is traditionally served in Easter and the three braids symbolise for the Holy Trinity, but it is also very popular throughout the year as a delicious mid day snack, breakfast or tea or coffee companion.
How to make the perfect Tsoureki, Greek Easter bread dough
It is a common secret, that making your own Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is quite challenging even for the experienced cooks. But experience has shown me, that it’s all about having the right recipe. This is a no-fail tsoureki recipe (with all the prep photos) for you to succeed on your first time!
Tsoureki dough is all about the rising, which means that the right temperature is key. Once starting to prepare this tsoureki recipe, make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature before using and lukewarm when added in the mixture; this will guarantee that your dough will rise. Give the dough time to rise and it will reward you with its distinctive air-y fluffiness. For this tsoureki recipe, make sure to use bread flour, which has elastic toughness that holds its shape well once baked. The most common mistake for the ones that haven’t tried a tsoureki recipe before is that once the dough is mixed, it resembles a little sticky, so most just add more flour, which result Greek Easter bread to lose its fluffiness. So be careful to add more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for only in case the dough is very sticky after mixing for 15 minutes. Garnish Greek Easter bread with syrup for extra moistness and almond silvers. Enjoy!
- 135g butter, from cow’s milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
- 135g milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
- 200g sugar (7 oz.)
- 4 medium eggs, at room temperature
- 870g bread flour (30 oz.)
- 21g dry yeast (0.7 oz.)
- 100g lukewarm water (3.5 0z.)
- zest of 1 orange
- 3g ground mastic (0.11 oz.) (buy online in Australia, UK, US/CA)
- 4g ground mahleb (0.14 oz.) (buy online UK, US/CA)
- 1 egg and 1 tbsp water, for glazing the tsoureki
- almond silvers for garnish
- 150g sugar (3.5 oz.)
- 150g water (3.5 oz.)
To prepare this tsoureki recipe (Greek Easter Bread), add in a bowl the lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar and yeast and stir. Wrap well with plastic wrap and set aside for about 6-7 minutes, until the yeast rises and starts bubbling. Be careful not do add hot water, as it will kill the yeast, nor cold, as it will take forever for the Greek Easter bread to rise. The water should be at the same temperature as your finger, so check it out sticking one finger in; you should feel no difference in temperature.
Use a pestle or a blender to ground the masticha and mahlepi, along with a pinch of sugar and set aside. (These aromatic spices will give Greek Easter bread its distinctive taste and amazing smell. But be careful not to add any more mastic than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as it will leave a slightly bitter taste to your Greek Easter bread.)
In a saucepan add the butter, sugar and milk. Place over very low heat and stir the mixture, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. The key is to melt the butter at very low heat, so that the temperature doesn’t ‘kill’ the yeast. Remove the pan from the stove and check the temperature. The mixture should be at the same temperature as your finger. If it is warmer, leave to cool down for a few minutes and check again.
Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest and the butter-egg-yeast mixture from step 4. Using the dough hook mix at first at low speed, until the ingredients start to combine and then mix at medium-high speed for about 15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. At this point the dough should be really soft, like seen in the picture and a little sticky. (Be careful not to add any more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as the dough should be really soft and not firm).
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, until at least it doubles it’s size (for about 2-3 hours). If the environment is cold, preheat the oven at 30C, turn it off and place the bowl inside.
Gently deflate the tsoureki dough with your hands and cut in 6 equal portions (three for each Greek Easter bread). Take one piece of the dough (do not flour the working surface!) and roll it a little bit with your hands. Hold with your hands from the edges and shake to stretch the dough into a rope. This technique will help the Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) form the characteristic stringy texture, as seen in the picture. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the second tsoureki. Let the Greek Easter bread rise for about 1 more hour at room temperature or in the oven, until it almost doubles it’s size, like seen in the picture.
In a small bowl add the egg and 1 tbsp water and whisk with a fork. Brush the top of each Greek Easter bread with the egg, being careful not to deflate it, garnish with almond silvers and bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 40-50 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy.
Although the traditional tsoureki recipe doesn’t call for syrup, garnishing Greek Easter bread with just a little syrup, always gives a little something! So it’s up to you to decide! Prepare the syrup for the Greek Easter bread just right before you turn the tsoureki out of the oven. In a small pot add the sugar and water and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the stove and ladle the hot syrup over the hot tsoureki.
Let the Greek Easter bread cool down and wrap well with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t become hard and dry. Store for up to a 5-7 days at room temperature.
Prepare this traditional tsoureki recipe for your friends and family and enjoy over a hot cup of tea or coffee.