Orange Easter Bread (Tsoureki)

3/5
7 hours
40 minutes
Makes 2 large tsoureki

500 grams Mitsides All Purpose Flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tbs mehlep powder
1/4 tbs mastic powder
1/8 tsp vanilla powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1 tbs dry yeast
1/8 cup fresh orange juice
zest of one large orange
egg wash for brushing
almond flakes and sugar for sprinkling

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1. Heat half of the milk to luke warm temperature. In a small bowl, add the yeast together with the warm milk and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and stir until the yeast and sugar have dissolved. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, until it has become foamy.

2. Put the flour, and all the dry ingredients (including the vanilla, mastic, mehlep, salt) in a large bowl. Mix together these ingredients.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar and 1 teaspoon of the orange rind in a mixer on high speed for about 7 minutes until the mixture appears creamy.

4. Melt the butter on the stove or microwave. Also warm the rest of the milk to luke warm temperature.

5. In the bowl with the dry ingredients, push the dry ingredients to one side of the bowl. Add the liquid ingredients (yeast, orange juice, orange rind, creamed eggs and sugar, and the rest of the warm milk) to the other side of the bowl.

6. Begin to bring some of the flour to the liquid side of the bowl and with your hands begin to mix the flour into the liquid mixture massaging the flour lightly between your fingers and the liquid. The mixture will be very sticky at first, but as you gradually mix more of the flour into the liquid side it will become a very soft dough.

7. Once all the mixture has become a soft dough, let it rest in a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap and blankets over top until it has doubled in size – at least 2 hours.

8. Form the “tsoureki”. Divide the dough in half. Then divide each half into as many braid strands as you wish and make a braid with the dough. Place on parchment paper on a baking tray. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 1 hour.

9. Preheat your oven to 160C.

10. Brush each “tsoureki” with egg wash and sprinkle sugar and almond flakes on top. Bake for 40 minutes in a preheated oven. Your “tsoureki” will be properly cooked when the top and bottom of the “tsoureki” have gone a nice deep golden brown. The top should be smooth and shiny and the bottom of the “tsoureki” slightly darker than the top.

How can you tell that it is spring where you are? In Cyprus, this is how I can tell it is most definitely spring:

I walked by the Mediterranean Sea and noticed the sea had changed from dark winter blue to bright aqua blue.

There are orange blossom flowers sprinkled all over the roads. The air is palpably sweet at the moment. It’s wonderful.  If you would like to make your own homemade orange blossom water, you can try with this recipe here.

I have been eating outside during the day with friends on a more regular basis. In particular, I am visiting this wonderful cafe which serves some killer eggs benedict called The Cookhouse. I went there with Cypriot & Proud the other week, so look out for their upcoming review.

And Easter is approaching.

I made Greek Easter Bread called “tsoureki” as part of the build up to Easter. I take great comfort in making Greek Orthodox Easter recipes. Easter over here feels like a larger celebration than Christmas. It’s tangible. You go to the supermarkets and you can see everyone buying flour, raisins and cheeses for Easter baking. The church bells ring much more often. The days get longer. It’s such a wonderful time of the year over here. And it’s the only time of year that I make “flaounes” (last year I wrote a recipe for the Cyprus Weekly which you can find here), dyed eggs and this year – “tsoureki” – a Greek Easter Bread flavoured with orange zest and Greek spices: mehlep and mastic powders. I actually think this bread is very similar to Challah in texture.

The flavour of the bread I made was just as I intended it to taste: a little bit sweet with the subtle scent of orange and a touch of mastic and mehlep spices. I however was in a rush when I was making these as I was at my aunt’s house to borrow her mixer and was eager to get home before it was too late in the afternoon. As a result, I didn’t let them proof enough (only about 1/3 of the time that I should have let them rise), which meant they rose quickly in the oven and tore, so don’t appear “smooth” — but I assure you that if you let these rise for the right amount of time, these “tsouerki” will be wonderful both in taste and smooth in appearance. Anyway, “tsoureki” is easy to make and because it is such a wonderful bread, I actually wondered why I don’t make it more often than I do. I think it is a bread that can be made year around. I have published a recipe below, and have also published the recipe of a local and fantastic baker (Kalopesas) awhile ago on Cypriot & Proud’s website here. Happy Easter to everyone celebrating. I have been dreaming about making many recipes while I have been resting this past month and am eager to start testing and sharing these with you after Easter.  So take care and speak soon. xxx

4 Comments

  1. Great recipe! Can I do the mixing part with the dough mixer instead of by hand? Can’t wait to try this… thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi there. Do you have the ingredients in weight? Cups never really works for me and would love to try this recipe. Thank you!

    1. Hi! Here it is in grams:

      550 grams all purpose flour
      3/4 teaspoon mahlepi powder
      1/4 teaspoon mastic powder
      1/8 teaspoon vanilla powder
      1/8 cup fresh orange juice
      1/2 cup melted butter
      1/2 tablespoon orange zest
      1/2 cup & 1 teaspoon sugar
      3 eggs
      1 envelope yeast, 8 grams
      1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
      pinch of salt
      1 egg, beaten for egg wash
      In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, milk and sugar. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let
      it rise for ten minutes until frothy. In another large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In another bowl,
      beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 7 minutes. Add the melted butter, orange juice, yeast mixture and
      egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix together with your hands until a dough forms. Vigorously knead the
      dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic by using your thumbs to press into the top of the
      dough downwards towards you and then away from you – this will create the nice texture. Create a ball with
      the dough and place it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a couple tea towels and let it rest for
      2 hours, until it has doubled in size. Divide the dough into three pieces, and then divide each piece into a
      further three ropes and create three braids. Place on the baking tray. Cover the braids with a tea towel and let
      them rise for 1 & 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. Before placing the braids in an oven, brush
      the braids with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 160C for 30 to 35 minutes.
      Makes: 3 braided loaves

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