Greek Easter bread is a semisweet dense bread decorated with brilliant red hard boiled eggs rubbed with olive oil. It’s a beloved family tradition that we enjoy each year.
This Greek Easter bread is one of the most eagerly anticipated sweet treats of the year at our house. For over 20 plus years, the week before Greek Easter has been filled with days spent in the kitchen making cookies, dolmades, spanakopita and of course the beloved Easter bread. My Greek mother-in-law takes the traditional Greek food very seriously when it comes to the holidays and for that I am grateful. My girls have grown up watching Yaya create her magic in the kitchen which always includes beautiful stories from days gone past. Aside from learning about Yaya’s cooking and baking techniques, we walk away from our time spent together, hearts wrapped in a warm blanket of memories that was woven from spending time in the kitchen together. That’s what food and family is all about isn’t it?
Tsoureki is the Greek word for Greek Easter bread. I spent a lovely afternoon making and baking this delicious bread with Yaya (my mother-in-law) laughing and telling stories and I just had to share this special tradition with all of you. ThisEaster bread is a semisweet bread that is pleasingly light yet pleasingly dense once it meets your mouth and is the perfect pairing alongside a pipping hot cup of coffee. It is something that we all look forward to sinking our teeth into each and every spring on Easter day.
One of the key ingredients to this semisweet bread is a spice called, Mahlepi. You can find this spice at your local Mediterranean grocery store (sometimes called Mahlab).
This is what it looks like…
You’ll want to grind the seeds until it becomes a fine flour-like consistency like this…
This unusual spice is a wonderfully warm cinnamony nutmeggy slightly nutty spice that is the undertone flavor in this marvelous bread.
Once you mix all of the lovely ingredients in a large bowl by hand, including the fresh zest of lemons and oranges, you’re kitchen will smell divine.
The dough will look like this…
Don’t worry about the melted butter pooling around the sides it will absorb as the bread sits in a warm place to rise.
she is beyond giddy about how beautifully the bread has come together.
Once mixed, the dough should be covered with plastic wrap that is actually tucked down in and touching the dough. Then wrap towels around the entire bowl and put it in a warm place for a couple of hours.
Our dough was ready much faster than usual. After an hour and a half of chatting while drinking coffee and munching on paximathakia our dough had risen.
The bowl of dough should look like this when it’s ready…
You could hear angels singing and Yaya too. She was like a little school girl swirling around the kitchen while explaining to me that the secret of making “good dough” is the happiness that you have in your heart while making it. I wholeheartedly agree. A happy heart makes happy food.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide the dough into four equal parts. Then separate each of the four parts into three pieces and roll the dough with your hands into approximately 14 inch long and about finger thickness.
Braid the three long cylinder pieces just like you would braid hair. It should look like this…
Then place the braid into a round pan that is lined with wax paper.
Then let that rise again, covered and placed in a warm spot. This should take about 30-45 minutes.
I would recommend a little dancing and singing to expedite the process. It worked for us!
Once the dough looks nice and plump like this…
Brush the dough with a mixture of beaten egg, vanilla and water. Then place in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes until it looks like this…
Once the bread has cooled, cut out the center of the bread and place a red dyed hard boiled egg inside.
And there you have a traditional loaf of Greek Easter bread.
Help yourself to a slice of the beautiful bread, pour a cup of coffee and exclaim Xristos Anesti (Christ Has Risen)!
Just like the beautiful bread.
I’ve shared some mouthwatering Greek recipes with you in the past. Here are a few fav’s ::
- Dreamy Creamy Tzatziki
- Happy Chicken Souvlaki ,
- Greek Style Chicken & Potatoes
- Lentil Soup
- Paximathakia the Greek Biscotti
Wishing you a marvelous and blessed Easter.
Here’s the delicious recipe –
- 7 cups Flour
- 3 quick rise yeast packets
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon mahlepi
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoon lemon & orange zest (mixed)
- 5 eggs (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup hot milk
- 1 cup melted butter
- *Note : All ingredients should be warm or at the very least room temperature to help the dough rise faster.
- Egg Wash for bread:
- 1 egg
- a few drops of vanilla
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Mix warm water and yeast, set aside.
- In a large bowl put flour, make a whole with your hands in the center of the flour to put the sugar, zest, salt, spices and mix that your hands. Add hot milk and mix again with your hands. Once the dough is incorporated add eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the yeast water mixture, your dough should be stringy when pulled apart.
- Next pour melted butter into the bowl one handful at a time and fold the dough (do not knead the dough). Pull and fold and pour in melted butter, repeat until you’ve used all the butter. Don’t worry if you see butter puddling around the edges, it will absorb as the dough rises.
- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap that it tucked down inside the bowl touching the dough. Then wrap the entire bowl in towels and place in a warm place for the dough to rise for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, separate into 4 equal parts. Then separate each of the four parts into three pieces and roll the dough with your hands into approximately 14 inch long and about finger thickness.
- Braid the three long cylinder pieces just like you would braid hair. You will have 4 braids.
- Place each braid in a round pan that has been lined with wax paper and cover with towel, place in a warm spot for 30-45 minutes for dough to rise again.
- Once each of the braids have risen, prepare the egg wash. Beat the egg with water and vanilla then brush each of the braids, this will give the bread a beautiful shine.
- Place pans into a preheated 350° oven (2 at a time) and bake for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough, if you see it getting too brown, cover with foil until baked through.
- Once bread has cooled, cut out the center and place a hard boiled egg that has been dyed red.
Originally published April 6, 2012