Post By Signe Langford
Tsoureki is a traditional Greek Easter egg-bread recipe, a gorgeous golden braided loaf with dyed-red Easter eggs baked right in.
I called on my friend, Chef Christine Cushing to share her family’s recipe and her know-how for my book, Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden and here it is! Traditionally, the eggs are dyed with onion skins, giving them a very subtle hue indeed. I wanted a little more pizzazz, so I added some beet juice to the water when dying mine.
Chef Cushing shares these reminiscences about a Greek childhood Easter:
“My grandmother came from the beautiful island of Crete at a time when there wasn’t much wealth or excess, and despite that she was so particular about everything she ate and impressed upon me at an early age how important the quality of the ingredients was. Our tradition of dyeing Easter eggs and making this fragrant, delicious Easter bread started for me when I was a teenager and Yia Yia (that’s Greek for Grandma) told me about how different the eggs were in Crete. I don’t think I fully appreciated that until I first went to cooking school in Paris and then on my first visit to Crete a decade ago."
“Easter isn’t Easter unless I make this bread,” says Chef Cushing, who was born in Greece, raised in Canada and has proudly served as the family keeper of this Easter tradition since the age of 12. “I used to camp out in sleeping bags in the living room with my cousins so we could set the timer and sleep between risings—it took me all night.”
Here's Chef Christine Cushing's Greek Easter Egg-bread Recipe:
MAKES 3 LOAVES
4–4½ cups (950–1060 mL) all-purpose ﬂour, divided
1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt
1½ tsp (7.5 mL) ground mahlepi (cherry stones), available at specialty Greek stores
1 tsp (5 mL) ground mastiha (hardened resin of the mastic tree), also available at specialty Greek stores
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
¹⁄3 cup (80 mL) warm water (about 98F/37C)
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp (180 + 15 mL) sugar, divided
½ oz (14 g) active dry yeast
½ cup (120 mL) warm 3.5 percent milk
4 free-run eggs, divided
¹⁄3 cup (80 mL) melted butter
About ¼ cup (60 mL) chunky sugar for a final sprinkle (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the dough-hook attachment, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, combine 4 cups (950 mL) flour, salt, mahlepi, mastiha and the zests.
In a small bowl, combine warm water, 1 table-spoon (30 mL) of the sugar and yeast; stir and let stand 5 minutes or until frothy.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together warm milk, 3 of the eggs, remaining ¾ cup (180 mL) sugar and melted butter; set aside.
Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and blend on low speed, or stir to combine.
Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour and yeast and continue to mix (on low) until dough is sticky and begins to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead, adding more flour as required; the dough may not require the full amount of flour. It should be smooth and elastic but slightly sticky to the touch. The process should take about 10 minutes.
Place in a well-buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let rise in a draft-free area at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Punch down and transfer to floured counter. Gently pat into a rough rectangle of about 7 x 23 inches (18 x 58 cm). Cut dough length-wise with pastry cutter or knife into 9 equal strands.
Working with one strand at a time, gently hold each end and tap like skipping rope on the counter until slightly and evenly stretched. Repeat with 2 other strands, then braid the 3 strands together, tucking the ends under to fasten. If desired, place red-tinted hard-boiled eggs (kokkina avga; see below for instructions) between the strands of the braids. Transfer braid onto a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough to form 3 braids, each on a separate baking sheet.
Cover with a floured tea towel and let the braids rise in a warm place for about 50 minutes, or until the dough does not spring back when pressed with a fingertip.
Beat remaining egg and brush egg wash over loaves. If desired, sprinkle with sugar while egg wash is still wet; coloured sugar would be fun for the kiddos and very festive.
Bake loaves on middle rack of preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden and hollow when tapped on bottom.
Making Traditional Greek Red Easter Eggs
This post was written by Signe Langford
Read Signe's other Easter post about making Easter Eggs with natural dyes here.
About the Author
Signe Langford is a restaurant-chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes. She is a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and Garden Making magazines. In 2105, Signe published her first book Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden- with 100 Recipes.
Raised in the town of Hudson, Quebec Signe grew up surrounded by an ever changing menagerie of critters, both wild and domestic, and her special affection for all feathered creatures has never flagged. At present, she shares a downtown Toronto Victorian with a tiny flock of laying hens. For more stories and recipes please visit www.signelangford.com
Photographer Donna Griffith is based in Toronto. She has taken photographs of food and drink, homes and gardens for a number of publications and books.
Chef Christine Cushing is a celebrity chef and television programme host. She is a resident chef on the Marilyn Dennis Show. She has written three cookbooks and has her own line of artisan food products.