A brioche braid filled with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar that come together to create the perfect dessert for your holiday table!
If you love apple pie and brioche, you’re going to love this tsoureki. The combination of pillowy soft brioche and the caramelized apple filling is heaven in every bite.
Tsoureki is a classic Greek sweet bread usually served around Easter time. It’s turned into Vasilopita at New Year’s so, I thought that it was time for a fall flavor. The warm flavor of cinnamon, the sweetness of brown sugar along with crisp juicy apples is fall personified.
Aromatic Mahlepi is the characteristic flavor of tsoureki. There’s nothing like it. Mahlepi, also known as Mahlab comes from the kernel of cherries. It is finely ground into a meal and used to flavor pastries throughout the Mediterranean and parts of Arabia. It has notes of almond and cherry and floral tones as well. Mahlepi is sold in Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food markets and online. If you cannot find it, you can add other complimentary flavors such as almond extract, ground cardamom, or some extra vanilla extract.
I have no doubt in my mind that you will love this sweet bread. It is absolutely worthy to be the main dessert at your Holiday table. I always make extra and freeze them to either serve alongside coffee or to bring as a hostess gift. After all, the best gifts are homemade.
- For the starter:
- • 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
- • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- • 1 teaspoon sugar
- • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- The dough:
- • 5 cups (720 grams) bread flour
- • 1 cup granulated sugar
- • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
- • 2 large eggs, beaten
- • zest of an orange
- • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- • 1 tablespoon ground mahlepi
- • 1/2 teaspoon salt
- • 2 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- The egg wash: 2 egg yolks plus 2-4 tablespoons milk
- For the Apple filling:
- • 2 Gala Apples, diced
- • ¼ cup light brown sugar
- • 1 cup granulated sugar
- • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Optional fillings:
- • dried cranberries
- • raisins
- • chopped nuts
- • candied fruit
- • ground cardamom
- Optional cream cheese icing:
- • 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- • 2 ounces butter softened
- • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- • 4-6 tablespoons milk or orange juice
Note: This dough can be prepared in a tabletop mixer or kneaded by hand in a large bowl or on the countertop. Using a mixer will require less kneading time. About 10 minutes. If making the dough by hand, knead it for at least 15 minutes so that the gluten forms well to achieve the desired consistency and texture.
Combine the starter ingredients together in the bowl of a tabletop mixer. Whisk and set aside for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. It is ready when a puffy cloud forms above the mixture.
In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, orange zest, salt, and mahlepi, together. Mix well to combine.
Once the yeast is activated, add all of the remaining ingredients to the mixer's bowl along with the butter. Turn the mixer on low and knead for 8-10 minutes.
Place some oil in the bottom of a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Toss around to coat and form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume. About 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours.
Quick Rise Tip: My favorite place to keep the dough so that it rises quickly is in the dryer. Here is what I do:
1) I put 3-4 clean bath towels in the dryer and turn it on (high heat setting) for about 5-6 minutes.
2) I place the bowl with the dough into the dryer (on top of the warm towels) and close the door.
3) Make sure the dryer is OFF!!
4) Remove from the dryer when it has doubled in volume.
This trick usually cuts 30 minutes from the rise time.
Punch down the dough to remove the air. Cut into 2 equal portions.
Cut each portion in thirds.
Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, mix, and set aside. Place the apples in a separate bowl. You may divide the cinnamon sugar and the apples into 6 portions.
Roll each portion of dough out about 13 inches long and 5-6 inches wide. Spread a portion of cinnamon sugar and some apples onto one side of the strip, fold over and seal the edges to create a rope. Do the same thing with the other 3 portions of dough and shape them into a braid.
Form another braid with the remaining portion of dough, cinnamon sugar, and apples.
Place both braided loaves onto a baking tray (18 by 13 inch) lined with parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap or with a clean towel.
Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 °Fahrenheit, 180 °Celsius.
Brush the tops of the brioche dough with the egg wash.
Bake in the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
Make the cream cheese icing, if using. Combine all of the icing ingredients together and mix until smooth.
Drizzle the icing over the bread once it is cooled and serve.
Once baked and cooled, the bread can be frozen for up to a month. Just make sure to wrap it well with plastic wrap.