This Sunday coming, Greeks all over the world will be celebrating Easter. Its a very big event in Greek culture with many traditions and religious rituals. There's Lent with the fasting, the many cakes, breads, biscuits and of course the dyed eggs. Its a wonderful time with Easter Sunday being the "big day". Everyone feasts and eats so much food!!!
The week leading up to Easter Sunday is termed as "Holy Week" with church services on every night. Its a busy week with the majority of the food preparation being done during this time. I remember when I was growing up the house being so frantic. "Koulouria" (the traditional Greek Easter cookies), "kourabiethes" (icing sugar covered almond crescent biscuits) and "tsourekia" (Greek Easter Brioche bread) were staples for us during the lead up to Easter. And the eggs. And the offal soup a.k.a "magerista"...and the lamb ready for the spit....you get the idea! There is so much food surrounding you, it made fasting during this time all that much harder!
This year, I set out for the first time to make my own "tsourekia" and dye the eggs red. Well lo and behold I got mixed results! The first batch of tsourekia turned out like bricks! On closer inspection I realised I had been using an old packet of yeast! So of course they didn't rise. Oh well you live and learn! Eventually I made them and they turned out gloriously plump and golden. My eggs turned out ok. A few blemishes here and there but otherwise fine. They're probably not the traditional version but they certainly tasted as I remembered. I love eating tsoureki in the mornings, toasted with some marmalade on top. I'm actually going to use the recipe for this and make something else in the near future. Tsoureki are traditionally made with a 3 plait twist. Each plait symbolising an element of the Holy Trinity. They are also baked with an red egg in them as a symbol for the blood that Christ spilt dying on the cross. They are similar to brioche and can store for a few days (if they last that long).
- 250ml of milk
- 80g of unsalted butter
- 750g of plain flour
- 1tsp of salt
- zest of 1 grated orange
- 3/4 cup of caster sugar
- 1 packet of instant dried yeast
- 1/2 a cup of orange juice
- 3 eggs
- FOR THE GLAZE
- 1 egg yolk
- a splash of milk
- flaked or slivered almonds
- Warm the milk in a saucepan over a very low heat. Add the butter stirring it into the milk so it will melt. Allow to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl place 100 grams of the flour with the yeast, salt, orange zest and a tsp of the sugar.
- Pour in the cooled milk/butter mixture in and beat with a wooden spoon to obtain a lovely batter.
- Cover with saran (plastic) wrap and a towel and leave it for about half an hour.
- When you return you should have a lovely bubbly mixture. Place in the remaining flour, sugar, orange juice and eggs.
- Mix until you have a lovely soft dough. If you find its sticky add more flour. But be careful not to add too much. We're after an elastic, silky dough.
- Give it a good bash and knead for about 5 mins. Work that gluten baby!
- Once kneaded place in an oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough. *Cover with saran wrap and a few tea towels and leave it to do its work. (I left mine for about 2 hours in a very warm room and it more than doubled! It was glorious!).
- When you notice it has doubled take it out and divide the mixture in two. *With one of the halves, divide into three equal portions and shape these three portions into "ropes". They should be of equal width and length. Now, remembering scouts, form a plait, tucking the ends in underneath on the top and bottom.
- With the remaining dough, I played around a did a few double twists and whole loaves.
- Brush with the egg yolk/milk glaze and sprinkle with the almonds.
- Bake in a 180 deg C pre heated oven for about 25 mins. They should be golden and sound hollow when you tap them underneath.
- Leave to cool and transfer them to wire racks
ΚΑΛΟ ΠΑΣΧΑ ---HAPPY EASTER