Easy recipe for Tsourike: Greek Easter Bread! Sweet yeast bread that is a bit brioche-like. A perfectly dense braided loaf that’s adorned with red dyed eggs.
Back in the spring of 2006, I was a part of a group tour to Turkey and Greece. And very fortunately, our time there coincided with the Greek Orthodox Easter.
In Greece, as in many Mediterranean cultures, Easter preparations begin on Holy Thursday with meaningful rituals, including dying eggs in red only–symbolizing rebirth, renewal, and the blood of Christ.
These same eggs are often used as decoration for the popular Greek Easter bread known as tsoureki, which is only one of many Easter breads and baked goods we encountered on our tour.
What is Tsoureki?
Tsoureki, Greek Easter bread, is a sweeter brioche-like bread that is enriched with eggs and butter–ingredients that are forbidden during the 48-day long Lenten season.
I surveyed several recipes to come up with an easy, more accessible Greek Easter bread recipe. And for flavoring, I borrowed a bit of an Egyptian twist by adding anise seed, which is actually not too foreign to Greek baking. Some recipes also use fennel seed.
Traditions & Greek Easter Bread
As in many parts of the Mediterranean, Greek Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter with a special midnight mass. A festive family dinner (or super early breakfast, if you will) follows. The star is typically meat; and many will serve a popular soup called magiritsa, which is made from the organs of the lamb.
The Hinarsises, my friends who supply our Greek extra virgin olive oil, confirmed that Greek Easter bread makes it’s appearance on Easter Sunday. It’s typically served following lunch– a big feast in which copious amounts of lamb are served.
And of course, red-dyed eggs are aplenty. As family members crack their eggs against each other in a playful but meaningful manner, one greets the other, “Christos Anesti” (meaning “Christ has risen”). The response, “Alithos Anesti” (meaning “Indeed, he did!”)
How to Serve Greek Easter Bread today
Today, Tsoureki is so popular that it’s mass produced, packaged, and sold throughout the year in Greece.
You may be sitting here going, I’m not Greek! I’m not exactly Greek either. But there really is no wrong way to serve and enjoy this Greek Easter Bread recipe. For my family, we will enjoy it for a simple breakfast with more boiled eggs, and feta, or honey.Print
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/3 cup milk
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten, PLUS 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water (egg wash)
- 2 tbsp anise seed
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red and fully dried
- Olive oil
- 2 to 4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/3 cup hot water (about 110 degrees F) with the yeast, 1 tbsp of the flour, and 1 tbsp of the sugar. Whisk gently. Cover with a towel and leave aside for 10 minutes until bubbly.
- In the meantime, heat the milk in a small sauce pan until the edges begin to bubble, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, remaining sugar and salt. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
- Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, stir the milk mixture into the yeast mixture. While paddle is stirring, add the 2 beaten eggs. Gradually mix in the flour, anise seed, and vanilla extract. Beat unit a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium (or medium-high if needed) until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface (dough will be sticky at this point.) Kneed by hand until very smooth (about 5 minutes), then place dough into a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover and place in a warm, closed space for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. (I had heated my oven to lowest temperature, then turned it off a few minutes before placing my covered dough in.)
- Punch dough down, and transfer to floured surface again. Cut dough into 3 equal parts, and gently roll each to form a long 16-inch rope. Transfer to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press ropes together at one end and braid fairly loosely. Form into a circle and press together on the other side. Stretch the circle to about 10 inches across and the hole in the middle about 3 1/2 inches wide.
- Cover with a clean towel and place back in warm space for 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Rub the dyed eggs with olive oil, and buff with paper towel. Select three spots in the dough, evenly spaced, and gently insert the eggs. Cover and return to warm space. Let rise 1 more hour until dough doubles in size.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the bread with the egg wash and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Bake about 45 minutes until braided loaf turns a nice deep golden brown (should sound hallow when you tap on it.)
- Let cool for about 30 minutes before serving. Serve with more boiled eggs, honey or other breakfast items. Enjoy!
- Make the boiled eggs and dye them in advance. Set aside to fully dry.
- Traditional rely on mastic and mahlab for flavoring. This modern recipe is tailored for the North American kitchen, relying on anise seed for flavoring.
- You can use toasted slivered almonds in place of sesame seeds, if you prefer.
- Are the eggs within the bread edible? We simply sliced around the eggs and did not eat them, they had been boiled then baked with the bread.
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