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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!

While this Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is traditionally served in Easter and the three braids symbolize the Holy Trinity, it is also very popular throughout the year as a delicious mid day snack, breakfast or tea or coffee companion.

What gives Tsoureki its unique flavour?

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 it a really characteristic flavour and smell. Once put in the oven, the intense aromas of the sweet spices permeates my house and brings back all those wonderful 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. They give the traditional Greek Easter bread its sharp and distinctive taste so try your best to source some. You can purchase mastic and mahlepi at Greek grocers or online. I have included some links in the ingredients section below.

Tsoureki recipe – How to make the perfect Greek Easter bread dough

It is a common myth that making your own Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is challenging even for an experienced cook. 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! And don’t forget to check out my video above for a hands on recipe showing you all my tips and tricks! So lets get started!

How to get the right tsoureki dough consistency

What I love the most about a traditional Greek tsoureki is that its always so soft and at the same time “stringy” when you tear into it by hand. For this tsoureki recipe, make sure to use extra strong white bread flour, which has plenty of gluten (protein). When buying your flour, check that it has a 13% protein content. This will help your tsoureki hold its shape once baked and will give it its amazingly stringy texture.

The most common mistake most tsoureki novices make is adding more flour than needed. Once the dough is mixed the dough will be a little sticky. If you add more flour if will result in your Greek Easter bread loosing its fluffiness. So be careful when adding more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for and do so only if the dough is very sticky after kneading it for 15 minutes.

How to prove your tsoureki dough to perfection

Tsoureki dough is all about the right proofing, which means that the right temperature, an active yeast and adequate time are key to its success. First off, before making your tsoureki dough, make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. This will guarantee that your dough will rise in a reasonable time frame. 

In addition, make sure your yeast is nicely active. The first step in making tsoureki is activating your yeast and testing it to see whether it is alive. In the bowl of lukewarm water add a pinch of sugar and your yeast, dissolve it using a fork and cover with cling film. If the yeast is active you should see it bubbling up in about 6-10 minutes. If you don’t see bubbles, don’t use it as your tsoureki will turn out flat!

Finally give the dough time to rise. You will need to do 2 provesThe first prove is done after the dough is kneaded and is also known as bulk fermentation. This will take about 3-4 hours  depending on how warm your home is. If you want to speed up the process put the covered mixer bowl with your dough in the oven and turn the oven light on or warm it up to 30C/85F. This will raise the oven temperature a little bit and accelerate the dough proofing. Don’t rush this step – its very important for the dough to double in size, be light and airy before you shape your Tsoureki, else it will turn out too “heavy”.

The second rise is done after the dough is shaped to Tsoureki loafs and is also known as the final rise. This will take about 1 hour or so and it’s finished when the braided tsourekia have puffed up nicely and have almost doubled in size again. This will inflate the dough on the inside making it light and fluffy. 

How to shape your tsoureki dough

The secret to your tsoureki having that amazing stringy texture that we all desire while also being fluffy is the shaping.

  1. Weigh your dough and cut it up in 6 equal pieces.
  2. Form each piece in a little ball and roll with your hands.
  3. Then hold each edge and shake it up and down stretching it to form a dough “rope”. This will stretch the gluten in the dough and align it horizontally giving you that delicious texture!
  4. Finally shape it into barely tight braids. This will prevent the dough from expanding side ways when baking while allowing enough space for your tsoureki to grow during proofing and baking!

How long does tsoureki last?

Your tsoureki should last about 5 to 6 days in its top softness. Just make sure you cover it tightly in cling film. After that the tsoureki will start becoming stiff and stale. A little trick to revitalize old tsoureki is to cut a slice and pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. This will warm the dough up and bring its softness back!

If you are making a large batch, you can bake them then freeze wrapped in cling film. They will last for up to 2 months. Defrost them by letting them sit at room temperature overnight, covered in some fresh cling film. They will taste just as amazing and fresh as when they came out of the oven!

Finally if you want your tsoureki to last even longer you can use my favourite trick and garnish this Greek Easter bread with syrup. This will give it extra moistness and help it keep fresh for up to 2 weeks.

The Recipe

Prep Time: 300 min
Cook Time: 35 min
Yield: 2 breads (30 slices) 

Description

A traditional Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki) recipe! Discover all the secrets behind making the fluffiest, tastiest traditional Tsoureki with this step by step, no fail recipe!

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 24g dry yeast (0.85 oz.)
  • 110g lukewarm water (3.9 oz.)
  • 3g ground mastic (0.1 oz.) (buy online in Australia, UK, US/CA)
  • 10g ground mahleb (0.35 oz.) (buy online UK, US/CA)
  • 135g butter, from cow’s milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 230g sugar (8.1 oz.)
  • 150g milk, at room temperature (5.3 oz.)
  • 4 medium eggs, at room temperature (200g/ 7 oz. without their shells)
  • 870g strong white (bread) flour (30.6 oz.)
  • zest of 1 orange

To garnish

  • 1 egg and 1 tbsp water
  • almond slivers

For the syrup

  • 150g sugar (3.5 oz.)
  • 150g water (3.5 oz.)

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In a saucepan add the buttersugar 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 lukewarm – the same temperature as your finger. If it is warmer, leave to cool down for a few minutes and check again.
  4. Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepiorange 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).
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, until at least it doubles in size (about 3-4 hours). If the environment is cold, preheat the oven at 30C/85F, turn it off and place the bowl inside.
  7. 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 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.
  8. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid and transfer on a large baking traylayered 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 puffs up and almost doubles in size, like in the pictures.
  9. In a small bowl add the egg and 1 tbsp water and whisk with a fork. Brushthe top of each Greek Easter bread with the egg, being careful not to deflate it, garnish with almond slivers and bake in preheated oven at 150C / 310F fan for about 30-40 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy. If its getting too brown too quickly cover with some parchment paper and continue baking.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 5-6 days at room temperature or up to a couple of months in the freezer.

Stuff it with chocolate!

If you like an extra something in your tsoureki, try adding some chocolate spread in the braids! When you have stretched the braids out, flatten them out with a rolling pin, add a thin strip of Nutella and fold and pinch back into shape. Then proceed with braiding.

Originally published in mygreekdish.com