Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread Recipe

The third bread recipe I made in preparation for Easter was Tsoureki. It was really yummy. If you're going to freeze it bake it without the egg. The red egg (in case you were wondering) represents the blood of Christ. Okay, so mine turned out pink because red food colouring doesn't do the trick, but you can purchase good quality red dyes if you want to make your eggs really red. Like my hot cross buns, the Tsoureki recipe called for nuts (this time on top) but I forgot to bring them to my mom's house and she didn't have any on hand. Once you add the glaze, add the sliced almonds on top before continuing to bake. Our friend Pavlina sprinkles her Easter bread with sesame seeds and bakes it in a loaf pan. I sampled hers over the weekend and I do like the flavour the seeds add. One other thing I did was use blood orange instead of a regular orange. Use what you've got (or what your mom's got). The glaze from the original recipe wasn't enough to coat both of my loaves so I had to double it. I may have let it thicken more than I was supposed to.

Forget the zester, this is better. Peel the rind off with a vegetable peeler and chop it with a knife. You get bigger chunks this way and more flavour (in my opinion).

Here's the finished bread.
You can see the beautiful flecks of orange.

Makes 1 large loaf or 2 medium ones

1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons butter
5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 blood orange (save the juice)
1/2 cup sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons blood orange juice
2 eggs
6 tablespoons blood orange juice
4 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup sliced almonds (which I forgot)

In a small pot, bring milk, vanilla and butter to a boil just to melt butter. Set aside and cool to room lukewarm.

In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour with orange zest and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir in the yeast then add the lukewarm milk. Set aside for 20 minutes until frothy.

Add the other 4 cups of flour, the remaining sugar, 3 tablespoons orange juice and eggs. Mix to form a ball then turn out onto a floured counter and kneed for 5 minutes.

Place in a bowl and top with oiled plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces and braid them tucking the ends under. Or make up your own design. I did one braid and one twisty type loaf that looked like it was hugging the egg. Press the egg (dyed red but uncooked - it will cook during baking) into the bread then cover again with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Remove plastic from bread and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the glaze.

Place 6 tablespoons orange juice and 4 tablespoons sugar in a pot over medium heat. It'll bubble and thicken a bit. Remove the bread from the oven after 20 minutes then brush the glaze on. Sprinkle with almonds if using then return the bread to the oven for another 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire racks. Serve as is or with butter and jam.


Tip: If your orange doesn't provide enough juice (and it probably won't), squeeze another half an orange. That should do it.

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