Tsoureki

Easter_3
From the archives.

Tsoureki (also called Lambropsomo) is an egg-rich Greek Easter bread that is traditionally served at the Resurrection Meal.  This meal marks the end of fasting for the Greek Orthodox Church and is often also comprised of an offal-based soup and a salad.  The dough is braided, sprinkled with sesame seeds and baked with partially boiled, red-dyed eggs to represent the blood of Christ.

There are dozens of Tsoureki recipes.  Some are flavored with orange peel and anise, others with sweet and sour mahlepi cherry spice, or with savory ingredients like the onion that I used in this recipe.

In order to avoid the color from the eggs running into your bread (like mine did), check Greek grocery stores around Easter time to find extra strong red dye.  Alternatively, soak or boil the eggs with onion skins to produce a lighter red, all-natural dyed egg.

Easter_bread

Tsoureki
adapted from Alberto at Il Forno

Ingredients

3.75 C unbleached all-purpose flour

1.25 C milk, at room temperature or a bit warmer

1 package active yeast

.5 C onion, finely chopped

6 Tbl butter, (soften 5 Tbl)

3 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

1 tsp salt

1 Tbs honey

1.5 Tbl sesame seeds

Method

To make the starter: In a medium sized bowl combine 1.5 C of the flour,  4/5 C of the milk and the package of yeast.  Mix well and allow to sit in a warm location until bubbly and doubled in size (about 45 minutes).

Cook the onion with 1 Tbl butter over medium heat, until the onion is translucent.  Set aside.

Boil 2 of the eggs for about 5 minutes (they will cook more in the oven) and dye red.  Set aside.

Knead the starter with the remaining 2.5 C of flour, salt, honey, 1 egg and enough milk for the dough to just come together (about 3 Tbl).  The dough should be quite firm.

Add the the onion and the remaining butter 1 Tbl and at a time. Work the butter into the dough until it becomes shiny and elastic, (about 10 minutes). Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Once doubled, divide the dough into 4 equal piece.  Roll three of the pieces into ropes about 24 inches long. Roll the fourth piece into a rope about 48 inches long.  Due to the elasticity of the dough, it is easiest to roll each piece a bit at a time, allowing it to rest as you roll the other pieces.

With slightly wet hands, braid the three 24 inch pieces together (the moisture will help the pieces stick together).  Move the braid to a greased cookie sheet or a Sil-Pat mat and tuck the ends under.  Place the boiled, dyed eggs on top of the braid and wrap the longest piece of dough around the eggs to secure them (see the picture above). Gently cover the dough and allow to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F

Glaze with the egg yolks and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes.

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