Sometimes I wonder who created the Easter Bunny? Think about it. It’s a giant rabbit that has a basket full of chocolate Easter eggs. Anyhoo, I’m all for any occasion to hide chocolates around the house. Growing up in Canada, we had two Easters. There was the one with chocolate. And the other one, which included competitive red-egg bashing and an assortment of incredibly yummy breads. Back to yummy breads: there were “flaounes” (cheese bread), “eliopites” (olive bread) and “tsoureki” (orange bread). Fact: tsoureki isn’t really a traditional Cypriot Easter bread, it is a Greek one, but since it is eaten and enjoyed in Cyprus around Easter I figure it is fair game for this blog. Last year, Cypriot & Proud did a piece on the best tsoureki in Nicosia. The winner was Kalopesas. And this year, Kalopesas Bakery was kind enough to share this recipe for all of us to enjoy. Of course, nothing quite compares going into the bakery, buying and enjoying a warm tsoureki, but baking these wonderful soft breads at home and filling it with the warm scent of orange and cardamon is truly wonderful too. Here below is a truly special recipe for tsoureki that Kalopesas bakery kindly shared with Cypriot and Proud, which – even more amazingly – even the beginner baker can make. What I think makes this tsoureki stand out is the addition of cardamom. The cardamom adds just that little bit of spice to an already wonderful combination of ingredients being the mastic, mahleb and orange. Enjoy and if we don’t have the chance to speak before Easter: Happy Easter! Kalo Pascha! PS Make sure you read the recipe all the way to the end as there is a top 6 tsoureki-making-dough secrets section!
Cooking Time: about 30 minutes, but this will vary depending on the size.
Makes about 8-10 small to medium sized tsoureki.
For the dough – part 1:
500g luke warm water (more or less depending on consistency)
35g dry yeast
For the dough – part 2:
275g butter cut into small pieces
2.5g ground mastic
5g ground mahleb
2.5g ground cardamom
orange zest from 2 oranges
1 egg for egg wash (egg wash is simply a beaten egg)
1. Mix together the luke-warm water, flour and yeast in a mixer until smooth. If mixing with your hands, do not punch the dough, simply fold the ingredients together with your fingers until smooth. Place in a bowl in a warm place. Cover with a blanket and let it rise. It must double in size. This takes about 1 to 2 hours.
2.Once the dough has risen, begin to prepare the other ingredients. In a medium-sized bowl, very lightly beat the eggs. Mix the butter, sugar and salt together with the eggs over boiling water on the stove. Lightly stir the mixture, but do not let it boil. I repeat, do not let it boil.
3. For the dough – part 2: In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, mastic, mahleb, cardamom, and orange zest until smooth.
4. Add the dough from part 1 in the mixer as well as the sugar, butter, eggs, salt mix. Mix together slowly for about 10 minutes and faster for about 5 to 8 minutes until the mixture is smooth. If you do not have a stand-alone mixer, simply fold the dough together with your fingers until it is smooth. Do not punch the dough.
5. Let the dough rise until it is almost double its original size. Again this will take about 1 to 2 hours.
6. Cut the dough in pieces and shape the tsoureki in any shape you wish. Place on top of parchment paper on a tray. Cover with a towel.
7. Before placing the tsoureki in the oven, let them rise again until they are about double in size. This will take about 1 hour. This is an important step! Your tsoureki will be lighter inside if you do this.
9. Once the tsoureki have risen, generously brush the surface of each tsoureki with egg wash. If you have let your tsoureki rise before placing in the oven, then they should come out shiny. If the tsoureki has not risen before you place in the oven, the tsoureki will rise in the oven and as a result, each tsoureki will only be shiny in patches.
10. Place the tsoureki in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the tsoureki is a light golden colour. Do not overcook the tsoureki, just ensure they are light golden in colour.
Once upon a tsoureki-making-dough time:
Are you scared of dough? Do you suffer from lack of sleep as a result of wondering if your dough will rise? OK, that’s probably just me. When I was younger I remember my mom wrapping dough in blankets and placing it on our beds in our bedrooms waiting for it to rise. We were told to behave and not to disturb the dough. Maybe that is why I always have a small degree of apprehension when making dough. Dough seems … sensitive. But don’t sweat it. Here, at Aphrodite’s Kitchen we have you covered. Here are the top six tips about how-to-make-tsoureki-dough-if-you-do-not-have-a-stand-alone-mixer … which I don’t…yet:
6. Tsoureki-dough likes warmth. It needs a baker’s hug. I use dry yeast. When mixing the dry yeast with the flour, make sure the water is luke-warm. Luke-warm water makes dough rise. Result: happy dough, happy baker.
5. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place. Dough does not like the cold. Do not leave the dough in a place where the dog can eat it. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. The pug was OK. The tsoureki dough was not.
4. Make sure your dough is always covered with a tea towel or a light blanket when it is not physically in your hands. Otherwise, your dough will dry out.
3. To knead dough, most people punch it with their fists. Do not attempt to punch tsoureki dough. It does not like it. Your bread will be hard and you will not have the lovely thin strands of dough characteristic to tsoureki. Instead, just fold the dough by pinching the dough between your thumb and rest of your fingers and rolling it through, as in the picture above. Of course, if you have a mixer, you need not worry about this!
2. Make sure the butter is fully melted but not boiled before adding it to the flour mixture. If you do not melt the butter, you will find little hard flecks of flour when you are braiding the tsoureki. When you bake the tsoureki these hard little flecks will mostly disappear, but it is better to not have them in the first place.
1. Let your tsoureki rise! Let your tsoureki rise again before you put it in the oven. Once you shape the tsoureki into braids, it will lose some of its lightness. This is why it is important to let the tsouerki rise again before you place it in the oven. It will ensure your tsoureki come out light and not hard!