Recipe: Traditional Easter Bread
Summary: The traditional bread that is served on Easter is the Tsoureki. The bread is a sweet yeast based loaf that is braided. Usually the dough is formed into 2 shapes, a circle or a long loaf. Either design is then manipulated to allow for at least 3 divots to form during baking.
Those divots will later be used to place crimson colored eggs in. The eggs are dyed red as a symbol of Christ’s blood as well as new life and spring time. Then everyone is invited to take an egg and begin cracking them with one another. The person whose egg remains unbroken is said to have good luck for that year.
- 12 cups of flour
- 3 tablespoons of active dry yeast
- 1 cup of melted butter
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 tablespoon of mahlab (or crushed aniseed, or vanilla extract) + 2 cups of water
- 2-3 pieces of mastic, crushed with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (or grated peel of 1 orange)
- 1 cup of lukewarm milk
- 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
- egg wash – 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
- sesame seeds or blanched sliced almonds (optional)
- hard boiled dyed red eggs (optional)
- Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm milk. Add a few spoonfuls of flour to make a paste. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise.
- In a bowl, combine 10 cups of the flour and salt, and add melted butter. Boil mahlab(mahlepi) in 2 cups of water, strain, and add the liquid to the flour. (Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon of mahlepi or other flavoring + 2 cups of liquid – 1 cup each of orange juice, milk or water.)
- Add the eggs, mastic, sugar, and the risen yeast mixture. On a floured surface or in a mixer, knead the mixture well, adding in remaining flour until it becomes a malleable dough, about 15-20 minutes (or 10 minutes with a mixer). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (1 1/2 – 2 hours).
- Punch down the dough and create shapes:
- Braids: Form 12 or 15 ropes, each about 15 inches long.
- Braid sets of 3 ropes to form loaves, tucking ends in underneath the loaves. For the traditional Easter loaf, tuck one or more red eggs (choose eggs that have no cracks) into the braids.
- Twists: Shape into ropes 20-24 inches long. Fold each rope in half and twist gently..
- Tuck a red egg into the top of the twist.
- Other shapes: They can also be shaped into round loaves, rings, or shapes of your choice.
- Place the loaves on greased cookie sheets or baking pans, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Brush with egg wash.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- (Optional) Sprinkle with sugar, sesame seeds, or blanched almond slices.
- Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 30 minutes or until golden brown. (Tap on the bottom; they should sound hollow.) Cool for 5 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4 – 6 loaves
Recipe adapted from and Photo courtesy of: examiner.com