Kristos Anesti! Traditional (ish) Tsoureki!

 Actual loaf is bigger than it appears.
More delicious, too.

For those unaware, which means I am choosing to believe that I don't know who is reading this, I grew up in an Orthodox religion. Rather, first my family was Greek Orthodox and then became Russian Old Calender Orthodox until we all did our own things. I am not Orthodox and do not really align myself with any religion, but I do have some warm feelings towards Pascha or as it is otherwise known, Easter.

This year, Orthodox Easter fell on Western Easter, which is different as usually it is either a week or a month after. There are lots of traditions and everything, but this year I've taken part in three of them.

That's a VCR that was broken and taken apart in the background. It's part of an art project, so I left it there.
After all, my eggs were MY art project and I didn't want anyone to move them! 

I dyed some red eggs.

I used those eggs to make tsoureki, which is a Greek Easter bread - sweet, though not like coffee-cake-sweet. It's been compare to challah and brioche.

I also made koulourakias, which I did last year as well, so you can read that blog post if you like. I baked it less this time around (fifteen to seventeen minutes, to be exact) and added half a teaspoon of vanilla in addition to the zest. I am beloved of my people.

Now, as you may or may not know, yeast-baking makes me nervous. But I think this time around I may actually be over the fear and on to just edgy feelings. And that's fine! Edge means I'll do it more, to show that damn yeast who is boss. We've certainly plenty.

And I do like bread.

Now, truly traditional tsoureki would mean I would need to have mahlab and mastic, two things I not have. I made do. In fact, I did more than make do, I rocked this. And if I could, you can to! Here is how...

You'll need...

- 6 - 7 cups of flour
- 1 1/2 TBS active dry yeast
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup + 1/2 TBS sugar
- 1/4 TBS vanilla
- the zest of one tangerine
- a few shakes of salt
- juice of one tangerine plus enough water to make two cups
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- egg, beaten, with water for an egg wash
- hardboiled egg dyed red (optional and, clearly, you could use another color)

Possibly the most organized mis-en-place I've ever showed you. 
And look! No bottle of whiskey in the background!

You'll do...

First, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk and add a few tablespoons of flour to make a paste. It'll be thick, but not super thick.


You'll want to cover it and let it rise in a warm spot. The counter did nicely, but maybe your life is different from mine. I just set mine in front of the microwave and carried on.


Now, in a bowl combine five cups of flour and the salt and melted butter. Add the vanilla to the water/tangerine juice mixture and add this. Mix.

Add the eggs, zest, sugar, and risen yeast mixture. Mix it up and add in another cup or two (or, if you must, more) of flour and knead until you have a malleable dough - about fifteen to twenty minutes. I like to call this stage "pretending I am a Kitchen-Aid mixer. Because that is what I am doing.


Cover and let rest for about two hours, until it is doubled in size.

This made me feel SO accomplished.

Preheat your oven to 350 F and wander off, watch something interesting, and obsess about personal problems with your friend. Then, go in and punch the dough down.

Now, you shape the dough. You can braid it or twist it or pretty much whatever you like. Tuck the egg in there! Place on a greased cookie sheet or a baking pan or something and cover, then let rise more.

I'll be honest, because this blog is about honesty, an admit that I forgot this step. It was late. I was dealing with a really, really long day and stress and hurt feelings caused by a joke that should not have been played (if you ask me, which by reading this blog, you have basically done).

And everyone is loving this bread so HA HA HA. Still. Best to go with the original plan, I suppose.

Then brush it with an egg wash.

You can sprinkle with sugar or blanched almond slices or sesame seeds if you like.

Bake for thirty minutes or until golden-browned. The bottom of the loaves should sound hollow when tapped. Cool for five minutes, then move to a rack to cool completely.

Is this the Easter spirit? 


Come, partake of my bounty.

I totally had a tiny loaf and I served that puppy still warmed from the oven, with butter, because that is how I roll.

And that is how I spent my Friday night.

Kristos Anesti!

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