"Tsoureki" is a traditional, sweet, fluffy & chewy Greek bread, which is made specifically at Easter time. The addition of two unique aromatic ingredients, mastic and mahleb makes it unique in flavor & aroma. This recipe came up two years ago, family loved it, so decided to share it with you!
Tsoureki is similar to French Brioche or Jewish Challah, but with its own characteristic flavor and aroma. It is perfect for breakfast or for a sweet treat during the day. In our home we enjoy it all year round with a slice of cheese, cream cheese, marmelade, nutella or plain. Leftovers also make fantastic French Toast Casserole.
Ingredients & substitutions
For this delicious and super aromatic Tsoureki you will need the following:
flour for "Tsoureki" or Hard Flour: If you don't have on hand flour for "Tsoureki" or hard flour, all purpose flour works too. With all purpose flour it won't become so chewy, however it will be equally enjoyable.
granulated sugar: I prefer Tsoureki slightly sweet so I add 200 gr. of sugar. In case you prefer it sweeter, add 50 gr. more sugar.
activated dry yeast
orange zest: adds extra aroma
mastic: basic ingredient which adds a distinctive fragrance & flavor to Greek Tsoureki. It looks like clear or white little stones and has to be grinded before use.
mahleb: cherry seed kernel, that is grounded to powder before use. Basic ingredient for Tsoureki, which adds a unique flavor & aroma.
In Greece you can find both Mastic and mahleb in every small or big market. Abroad they are usually found in Greek bakeries or Middle Eastern shops. Also available to buy them online.
egg: in room temperature
milk: in room temperature. I usually use full fat milk. Plant-based milk or lactose-free milk works too.
unsalted butter: cold and cut into cubes
egg yolk: for brushing over top of loaves
How to make homemade Tsoureki
First combine flour, half sugar, dry yeast and orange zest in a bowl or in a stand mixer's bowl. In a food processor add the rest of the sugar, mahleb and mastic. Beat until mastic is finely grounded. Add them to the bowl with the other ingredients and stir to combine. Next add partially the eggs, then the milk and start kneading, until all ingredients are homogenised. Add salt and gradually the unsalted butter pieces. Knead until combined and then transfer on a clean and floured surface. Continue kneading -and partially add the rest 200 gr. flour- until you have a chewy & sticky dough. In order to succeed a stringy pull apart texture, get ready for an arm work, that should last at least 20 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic. When ready, brush a bowl with melted butter, sprinkle some flour and place the dough in it. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or with plastic wrap and let rest for 2-3 hours or until dough doubles in size. When the dough is ready, cut dough into 4 pieces and knit 4 braids. Place them in oven pans with baking paper (2 braids in every oven pan, so you will need 2 big oven pans) and let them rise for 1 hour. In the meantime preheat oven to 170C (338F), set to Fan. Brush braids with egg yolk, sprinkle with grated pistachio or sesame or almond slivers. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Place braids on a cooling rack and let them cool.
How to store Tsoureki
Store in an airtight container or wrap it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate to enjoy it in some weeks or 1-2 months later.
Preparation time: 30 mins
Waiting time: 3 hours
Cooking time: 30 mins
1 kg flour for "Tsoureki" or Hard Flour (plus 200 gr for kneading)
200 gr. granulated sugar
16 gr. activated dry yeast
2 oranges (only zest)
1/2 tsp. mastic
1 tsp. mahleb
6 medium-sized eggs, in room temperature
240 ml milk, in room temperature
1 tsp. salt
300 gr. unsalted butter (cold and cut into cubes)
1 egg yolk, for brushing over tops of loaves