Bread baking is a wonderful skill and, indeed, an art form when you see the wonderful creations by Greek Bakery Chef Xaris Papalitsas in his first cookbook, ARTOS: ‘H Techni tis Artopoiias’ (the Art of Bread Baking). Papalitsas and the book’s publisher Gastronomy Essential graciously shared the delicious recipe for tsoureki included in the book, just in time for Easter baking.
It should be noted that the recipe below has been translated into English from the original Greek and measurements have been left in grams for accuracy.
The book is available in Greek online: www.Cucina.gr.
Ingredients for the dough:
800 grams all-purpose flour plus 200 grams
4 large eggs
160 grams butter
130 grams whole milk
60 grams fresh baker’s yeast
130 grams water
45 grams invert sugar or honey
3 grams freshly ground mastiha
3 grams mahlepi
2 grams cardamom
Grated rind of half an orange
315 grams granulated sugar
Slivered almonds or decorative sugars
The traditional tsoureki is probably the most delicious pastry in Greek culture. Fluffy, chewy, full of fiber, and full of sweet aroma.
For the dough:
Heat the water to 45 degrees C (113 degrees F) and break up the yeast in the bowl of the mixer with the water. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and the spices (mahlepi, mastiha, cardamom) and set aside to become foamy.
In a saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar, butter, invert sugar, milk, and grated orange rind. Be careful not to exceed 50 degrees C (122 degrees F). Then remove it from the heat, add the eggs and beat to combine. Pour the remaining flour over the yeast mixture and start kneading with the dough hook attachment of the mixer, adding the liquid mixture from the pot. Knead, for 25-30 minutes, on low speed.
First Dough Proofing: 60-90 minutes, at 30-32 degrees C (86-89 F), 1-2 times.
Shape at 120 grams each for individual tsourekia or two large loaves at 300 grams each.
Leave on the stove, for 90-120 minutes, to rise. Then, brush with egg white and decorate with slivered almonds or decorative sugar.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F until browned.
Baking Times: 15-20 minutes, for individual tsourekia and 25-35 minutes, for large tsourekia.
Note: If preferred a hardboiled, dyed red egg can be braided into the dough before baking.
To shape the dough into a braid: Divide 300 grams of the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each of the three pieces of dough between your hands, making three ropes, about 12 to 15 inches long. To make a rope, flatten the piece of dough first, then fold over the sides, and seal the seam with your fingertips. Then roll the rope on board to keep it round and even. The folding and rolling technique gives structure to each rope, so the bread will be supported internally as it rises and bakes.
Line the ropes side-by-side on the floured work surface and begin the braid at the center of the ropes. Braid loosely from center to end. Pinch and tuck the ends under. Nestle the red egg, if using, into the braided dough at one end.
Bake as indicated above.