Tsourẻki, Easter sweet bread

Apr 12, 2012


  This year, Greek Orthodox Easter is on Sunday April 15, a week after the Catholic Easter. 
          During the “ Holy Week" preceeding Easter, my grandmother would make the Easter cookies and sweetbreads. You can imagine the aromas of vanilla, butter, orange zest, and mastic, spreading all over the house and my anticipation to taste everything coming out of the oven. Unfortunately, I was forbidden to touch anything until Sunday because dairy products and eggs were not consumed during the “Holy Week”. So I had to watch all these goodies being wrapped in colorful transparent plastic wrap to keep them fresh and pretty, before half of them would be given to friends and relatives for Easter.  This entire “patience test” didn’t serve to make me any more religious!
         The sweetbreads my grandmother used to make are called “tsourẻkia”.They were once special Easter sweet breads, but nowadays they are made in every bakery in Greece and throughout the Mediterranean world all year long because they really do deserve to be enjoyed every day.  
         The following recipe ALWAYS works but you have to be patient because the dough has to rise twice before baking, three times if you count the starter. 

For 2 tsourẻkia (or 4 smaller ones)

1kg bread flour
80gr fresh yeast or 16gr dry yeast
150gr lukewarm water 
200gr butter melted 
200gr lukewarm milk
250gr caster sugar
4 eggs beaten
½ tsp. mastic crystals (finely crushed in a mortar)
1tsp mahlab  (It’s a spice, and its optional)
 Vanilla flavor   
 ½ tsp. salt

        For the starter: In a bowl mix the yeast well with the lukewarm water, add  2Tsps of the sugar, 150gr of the flour. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for ½ an hour.  
       Then, in another bowl put the lukewarm milk, melted butter, the rest of the sugar, mastic mahlab, vanilla, salt and finally the eggs. Mix well to incorporate. To this egg mixture you add the starter dough and gradually the flour while kneading with your hands. When you come up with an elastic dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean, (if needed add a couple of Tsps. flour but no more because the dough may become dry) cover with the kitchen towel and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, it may take ½ to 1 hour .
       Now, divide the dough in two pieces in order to make two tsourẻkia or in four pieces to make four smaller tsourẻkia. 
       The easiest way to form your tsourẻkia is to simply roll each piece of dough to give it a shape of a long thick rope and then just roll it around itself to give it the shape of a snail. This is very easy.


       Or if you prefer the traditional way; take three dough formed ropes, plait the three together and pinch the ends so they do not get separated. Then tuck each end underneath the loaf 
       Once shaped, put your tsourẻkia on lined baking trays, cover, and let them rise again for the final time, - about an hour.
       Brush the loafs with egg yolk thinned with water and   bake in a preheated oven at 160-180 C for 45 min. Let them cool on a rack and then store them in plastic wrap.

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