Every year I would have the intention of making my Mom’s Tsoureki for Easter but never got around to make it until this year. I am glad that I made the time to learn how to make my Mom’s Tsoureki because now I will be able to make it for my family for years to come. Although it is very time-consuming to bake this heavenly Easter Bread it is well worth it. The look on my son’s face as you took his first bite of my Tsoureki and saying, “Mmmmm! Delicious Mama” is well worth the sweat. If you are going to attempt making Tsoureki make sure that you have a whole day blocked off because the secret to having a Tsoureki that light and airy is in the length of time you let your dough to raise. Kali Anastasi to everyone.
2 oz of fresh yeast
1 package of dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
3/4 cups flour
1. In a cup place the dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and sugar. Blend and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Place in a mixing bowl and allow to raise for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. In a small mixing bowl crumble the fresh yeast and stir into the remaining warm water and salt.
3. When the dry yeast mixture has risen add the fresh yeast mixture. Combine with 3/4 cup flour and cover with plastic wrap and tea towel. Place the bowl in a preheated oven 200F. Turn off the oven and allow the yeast mixture to rise for another 15 minutes.
2 cups warm milk
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup warm orange juice
1 package mahlepi
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp orange zest
2 1/2 cup sugar
12 cups all-purpose flour
4. Blend the eggs, sugar, and butter together first until combined well. Then add the milk, orange juice, orange zest, mahlepi and vanilla and continue blending in the stand mixer. Make sure to use the dough paddle as it will help to start the dough process.
5. Next, add the flour into the wet ingredients one cup at a time until the dough starts to gather from the sides.
6. When the dough starts to bunch up at the sides it is time to take out te dough from the stand mixer and into a large mixing bowl to be hand kneaded. Knead the dough as you continue to add the rest of the flour. The flour should be incorporated well and your dough should be smooth and shiny. My Mom adds some olive oil on her knuckles to make the kneading process a bit easier on the wrists.
7. While you are preparing the dough preheat the oven to 250F. Once it has reached this temperature turn off the oven. After kneading the dough, press a cross formation in the centre of the dough, cover with plastic wrap and a couple of large tea towels and place it in the warm oven. Leave to rise for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
8. Now that the dough has risen the loaves have to be formed. Separate the dough into 12 individual balls, cover and set aside until you are ready to braid the dough. Line loaf pans with parchment paper and prepare the egg wash.
9. To form each loaf roll the ball out into a long cylinder shape making sure to roll out the dough to about shoulder length, pinch in the centre and twist into a tight braid. Place in the loaf pan, brush on the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and the sliced almonds. Do this for all 12 loaves.
10. As you are making the braids preheat the oven to 200F and turn off the oven when it reaches 200F. Depending on how big your oven is you may be able to bake several loaves at once. We baked 5 loaves at a time. Before baking place the loaves in the warm oven to rise again. Cover with wax paper and tea towel and let to rise for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the loaves rise to double the size bake at 300F for 30 minutes. The Tsoureki should be golden brown and soft to the touch.