Thursday, 28 April 2016

Greek Easter Bread, Τσουρέκι


For the second installment of Greek Easter treats, I have made Τσουρέκι, a soft and fluffy sweet bread that is flavoured with  Mahlepi (μαχλέπι) and Mastiha (μαστίχα). For those who are not familiar with these ingredients, Mahlepi  "is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry" and Mastiha is "is a resin obtained from the mastic tree." Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to find these ingredients if you are outside of Greece, However, I am certain you can find them on Amazon (albeit a bit pricey) or at any Mediterranean food shop.

Traditionally Τσουρέκι is made on Holy Thursdayperfect timing yea?

Τσουρέκι, Greek Easter Bread

Recipe by mygreekdish

135g Butter (4.7 oz.)
135g Milk (4.7 oz.)
200g Sugar (7 oz.)
4 Eggs
870g Strong White Flour (30 oz.)
21g Dry Yeast (0.7 oz.)
100ml lukewarm Water (3.5oz)
zest of 1 Orange
3g Mastic (0.11 oz.)
4g Mahleb (0.14 oz.)
2 Egg Yolks and 1 tbsp Milk, for glazing the tsoureki
Sliced Almond for garnish (optional)

1. Before we begin, make sure that the Milk, Eggs, and Butter are all room temperature. Add yeast, a pinch of sugar, and the 100ml lukewarm water in a jug or bowl. Mix the contents a bit with a fork, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 6-7 minutes, until the yeast rises and starts bubbling. As always when working with yeast take care not to use hot water (because it will kill the yeast) or cold water (because it will not activate as quickly).
2. Using a pestle or a blender, ground the masticha and mahlepi, along with a pinch of sugar and set aside.
3. In a saucepan add the butter, sugar and milk. Place over very low heat and stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove and let it cool until it has reached room temperature.
4. Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
5. In another, larger bowl, add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest and the butter-egg-yeast mixture from step 4. Using the dough hook mix at first at low speed, until the ingredients start to combine and then mix at medium-high speed for about 15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. If you don’t have a mixer, than simply knead the dough until it is soft and smooth, but still a bit sticky. At this point the dough should be really soft, like seen in the picture and a little sticky. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, and let it rise until it doubles in size—for about 2-3 hours
6. Punch down the τσουρέκι dough and cut in 6 equal portions (three for each Greek Easter bread). Take one piece of the dough (do not flour the working surface!) and roll it a little bit with your hands. Hold with your hands from the edges and shake to stretch the dough into a rope. This technique will help the τσουρέκι form the characteristic stringy texture, as seen in the picture. Form the τσουρέκι into a braid and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the second τσουρέκι. Let the bread rise for about 1 more hour at room temperature, until it almost doubles in size.
7. In a small bowl add 2 egg yolks and 1 tbsp of milk and whisk with a fork. Brush the top of each τσουρέκι with the mixture, garnish with almonds and bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 40-50 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy.
8. When they are ready, let the τσουρέκια cool down on a wire rack, and wrap well with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t become hard and dry. 

I've included pictures of the process below:

Kalo Pasxa & Kali Anastasi!