Tsoureki and Tsoureki French Toast

(Photo by Eurokinissi)

Tsoureki is a staple food at Easter time. Hardly any Easter table would be complete without the delicately-flavored bread with its light texture and sweetness, a perfect accompaniment to red eggs or on its own with a little butter on top. Any leftover tsoureki, especially day-old or even a few days old, makes excellent French toast. The brioche-like texture soaks up the egg and milk mixture well and the Greek flavors of mahlepi and mastichi add interest to the classic breakfast food.

Tsoureki

  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 8-9 cups bread flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup almonds, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground mahlepi
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground mastichi
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • For the glaze and decorating:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 -3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds or 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 red-dyed eggs

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the warm milk, the yeast, one cup of the flour, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cover and set aside in a warm place to proof for about one hour.

In a large bowl, whisk together 7 cups of the flour, the ground almonds— if using, the salt, the remaining sugar, the mahlepi, and mastichi. Add to the yeast mixture, along with the melted butter and the beaten eggs. With the dough hook of the stand mixer attached, mix until a smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours.

After the first rise, punch down the dough and divide into 6 balls. Roll each one into 15-inch long strips about 2 inches wide. Pinch the ends of 3 of the strips together and braid. Pinch the other end together and press a red-dyed egg at one end, nestled between the strips of dough. Repeat for the remaining dough to make a second tsoureki.

Place the tsourekia on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place for another two hours, until the tsourekia have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the egg with 2 tablespoons of milk and brush on the tsourekia after their second rise. Sprinkle with slivered almonds or sesame seeds. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven, or until golden brown. Check if the tsourekia are browning too quickly after about 15 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil if they seem to be over-browning. A properly baked bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the tsourekia from the oven and cool completely on racks before storing in an airtight container or serving.

Tsoureki French Toast

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5-6 slices tsoureki about 1/2 inch thick
  • Maple syrup or Greek honey

Heat a nonstick griddle or frying pan on the stove top to medium high heat.

Beat the milk, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Dip the tsoureki slices in the mixture, turning them so they are soaked all the way through and fry until golden brown on both sides. You may need to use an additional slice or two of tsoureki if there is extra egg mixture left. Serve warm with maple syrup or Greek honey.