Tuesday, 6 May 2014

April 2014 Daring Bakers challenge: Easterbreads-Tsoureki

The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.
So, I'm finally able to post this recipe since my computer fell down last week and didn't work properly.
My Easter bread is called tsoureki. It is a brioche-like bread consumed on Easter in Greece, it exists on every bakery in Greece, decorated with a dyed egg on the top. Well, we don't only eat it on Easter but we also eat it at Christmas, with a Christmas decoration and you can also eat it whenever you want, as it is, or with marmalade, nutella or whatever you like on it, as a special breakfast or along with your coffee or tea.
The main spices are mahlepi (mahlab) and mastic but some people put vanilla and cardamom instead. The traditional one though, is with mastic and mahlepi which give it a unique aroma. The most important thing about this recipe, and well, every tsoureki recipe, is to use strong flour or else you will not have this special texture, but it will feel more like common bread. 
 It would also be better, if you use a stand mixer for this one, as it needs about 20 minutes kneading. It would be pretty impossible to knead by hand and very tiring with a hand mixer. Also, if you don't have the spices as they are not that easy to find outside Greece, you can use vanilla or cardamom or both. The recipe is once more from Stelios Parliaros, the ultimate pastry chef in Greece. Here it is:


Recipe video here

70 g butter
100 g milk
250 g granulated sugar
3 eggs
5 g mahlepi (mahlab) (ground)
5 g mastic (ground) or 7 drops mastic oil
100 g lukewarm water
40 g fresh yeast or 20 g dry yeast
650 g strong flour
1 egg for brushing

Firstly, if you don't have ground mahlepi and mastic you can ground them in a mortar with a little sugar. Heat the butter, sugar, milk , mahlepi and mastic in a pot until it gets lukewarm about 50 °C. Don't let it get warmer than that. Remove from heat add the eggs and whisk the mixture. In a bowl, place the yeast and the lukewarm water and mix them. Add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture and whisk it. In the mixer bowl, place the flour, add the egg mixture and knead with the hook attachment. Start slowly and gradually increase the speed. The mixture might look almost like a soup, but don't get scared and add flour because it will get dry. Let the mixer knead it for about 20 minutes or until it does not get stuck any more on the walls of the mixer bowl and it becomes a ball around the hook. If it doesn't happen and it really needs flour we can add about 30 more grams.
turn off the mixer, take the dough to our hands and shape into a ball. Put a little flour in the bottom of the bowl, place the dough inside and cut a cross on the top. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise to a warm place for about 3 hours, until it is double in size and you cannot see the cross any more.
After the 3 hours, knead the dough a little with your hands, cut in 3 same pieces and shape into a pigtail. Place on a tray, lined with baking paper and cover with a damp towel. Let it rise once more in a warm place for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C/390°F.
After it has risen, brush it with a beaten egg, carefully so that you will not pierce the dough. If you want you can add some almonds on the top and when it is Easter a dyed egg, also.
Bake it in the middle of the oven for about an hour or until it becomes golden brown.

It is better consumed the same and the next day. If you want to keep it fluffy and fresh, it would be better if you keep it in the freezer.

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