One of the most characteristic traditions during the Greek Easter is the making of the Politico Tsoureki and red eggs. Politiko Tsoureki is a sweet Greek bread that is made by Greeks during Easter.
The Greek word tsoureki is taken from Turkish word çörek. others say it is Persian or Armenian.
When you look at the recipe for Politiko Tsoureki, it will definitely remind you of the Jewish challah bread or French brioche. The basic ingredients are the same. I believe that Jews brought this bread in the Byzantine Constantinoupole, but the Greeks added the spices available and this is why it is called Politiko Tsoureki (braided sweet bead from Poli)
What makes tsoureki different is a spice called mahleb, which is made from the seeds found inside a type of cherry stone. That spice, when cooked, gives a sweet smell and taste.
And the Mastic, a resin obtained from the mastic tree. It is also known as tears of Chios, being traditionally produced on the island of Chios
Usually braided with three braids that symbolize the Holy Trinity, and the red egg that people placed on top of the braid symbolizes the resurrection and the blood of Jesus. When the tsoureki is shaped round, kouloura, it symbolizes the thorns of Jesus’ crown
As always in my trips to Greece, I am looking to find the most traditional recipes. I got to hear about a pastry and confectionery workshop in Athens that operates since 1948 called Kanakis. Today the business is still in the same family and the granddaughter Anna Spanou Kanaki is the Chef of the business. Anna makes the Easter tsoureki using the same recipe as her grandmother did with the same high quality ingredients and spices.
For the yeast
150g lukewarm water
60g fresh yeast
130g extra strong flour
For the Tsoureki
960g extra strong flour
50g egg yolk
200g lukewarm milk
200g butter at room temperature
80g of orange juice
Zest of 2 medium oranges
18gr mahleb powder
8gr mastic tears
1 egg for the egg wash
Almond fillet for garnish
For the rolls
• Sugar, chocolate chips, orange zest
• Sugar, cinnamon
Start by preparing the yeast. Heat the water slightly, so that if you dip your finger you can tolerate the temperature if you count up to 20, or if you have a thermometer, do not exceed 40°C. Then melt the yeast by stirring with a whisk and finally add the flour. Leave it covered so it can double its volume.
Then grind the tears of mastic with 2 spoons of sugar until it becomes powder. Put the hot milk, the rest of the sugar and the salt in a mixer so they can melt together. Add the eggs, the yolk and all the other ingredients, together with the yeast, mixing them with a dough hook at medium speed until the dough comes off the walls of the container on its own. At this point, give it time to develop the fibers that we will encounter once cooked. This is absolutely effortless for you, but it is the most important rule to follow! Then, place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover it and let it double in volume.
Divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll out 3 rod like strips from every part. Then braid the tsoureki.
Brush your braids with the egg wash and allow them to rise once more to almost double the size.
Bake the easter breads in a preheated fan oven, at 140°C for about 40 minutes.
Enjoy them with your favorite hot drink; it is dreamy!
Recipe: Anna Spanou Kanaki
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