Yiayia's tsoureki: Greek Easter bread
Easter for us means so many things; largely because it is such a celebrated moment in the Greek Orthodox calendar. Each year we gather round our Grandmother's kitchen table and prepare for Easter weekend. Since I was a child I have always looked forward to the Thursday and Friday before Easter because it has always meant visiting Yiayia's (Grandmother) house and helping alongside my Mother and Auntie to dye the eggs beautiful bold colours, to make the flaounes (Easter cheese bread) and to take home Yiayia's incredible tsoureki. Yiayia always decorates the house beautifully with flowers and little displays that are filled with treats for the children in the family. This is something that my Mother and I also do and I hope that one day my children will continue to add magic touches to their homes. We thought it would be nice to share her recipe and hope you enjoy trying it out.
Makes 4 loaves
Pre-heat oven to 180°
2kg self-raising flour
120ml warm water
½ litre milk
3 cups sugar
1 tsp mastic* grinded with a little sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
150g dried yeast
½ tsp mahlepi*
3-4 cardamoms soaked in boiling water overnight (1/2 small coffee cup of water). You just use the water
1 tsp salt
1 lemon zest-grated
1 orange zest-grated
Melt the butter with sugar, mastic and milk so that it is just warm enough to touch (not boiling). Then sieve the flour and continue to add all the other ingredients until it forms a dough.
Leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (this may take 3-4 hours).
Knead and make 4 loaves (either plait or circular in shape).
Leave to double in size again. Can add flaked almonds if desired on top. Glaze each of the loaves.
Yiayia’s glazing secret: Beat an egg yolk with a few drops of vanilla together. Glaze the tsoureki just before placing in the oven. Bake for approximately 30-45min.
*You can buy these ingredients from Greek, Cypriot or Turkish food stores.