The Ultimate Tsoureki guide will solve all of your tsoureki-making conundrums. In this post, I answer the most common questions that have been sent to me on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, email, and on this blog. I think I got everything covered in this post and I hope that it helps you make this delicious sweet bread with confidence!
Here’s the video tutorial for Stuffed Tsoureki & Plain
Here’s the Video for The Braided Classic Tsoureki
Here are some of the most common questions/problems that people run into when making tsoureki for the first time.
Can fresh yeast be substituted for instant/active dry yeast?
Yes, absolutely. Use whichever type of yeast that you prefer or that you already have on hand. Active dry yeast and instant yeast are interchangeable. My recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of either. I ALWAYS proof it to make sure that it is active and alive. This just means that I create the starter (milk, yeast, sugar, and flour) and set it aside for around 8 minutes. As soon as a cloud forms on top that’s how I know that the yeast is alive and well and will help my dough rise.
If a puffy cloud does not form on top do not even bother with the recipe. Get a new container of yeast and start over. Otherwise, the dough will not rise. And, we will cover that problem below.
As for using fresh yeast as a substitute for the dry yeast:
- a larger quantity of fresh yeast will be needed to substitute the dry yeast. My recipe calls for a tablespoon of yeast which weighs 11 grams. When using fresh yeast, you will need 42 grams.
- It should still be proofed the same way (by creating a starter) before adding the remaining ingredients.
- everything else stays exactly the same.
Why didn’t my dough rise?
A few things could’ve gone wrong to cause this. But, before we get into that, let me say that tsoureki dough is a rich and dense dough. Therefore, it will take longer to rise than doughs that do not contain eggs, butter, and milk. So, it will take about 2 hours (or longer) depending on the temperature in your home. If you use my “dryer” trick, the dough will rise a little faster. About 1 and 1/2 hours. Allow it to take its time. You can also do a cold rise overnight in the refrigerator. I will talk about that in another section down below. Now, let’s get to the possibilities of why the dough did not rise:
- The yeast was not proofed. Proofing is essential. Proofing properly is also important. In order to proof the yeast properly, the milk should be lukewarm (about 115 °F). If it is too hot, the yeast will die and if it is too cold, the yeast will never activate. Also, make sure that the eggs are also at room temperature.
- The dough was not put in a warm place. My favorite place to allow the dough to rise is in my dryer (See dryer trick section, below). You can also let it rise in the warmest room in your house. The oven works too. Make sure that it is OFF and the oven light is on. The light will produce a little bit of heat.
- Placing the dough in a HOT place (such as an oven that is on or a very hot dryer) will kill the yeast too. It has never happened to me at home. However, it has happened at our restaurant when I used to proof yeast over the stovetop, on a shelf.
If you proof the yeast, knead it as per the recipe instructions, and then, set it in a warm area to rise, it will work every single time.
Keep in mind that this is a dense dough and can take over 2 hours to rise.
What is the “dryer trick”?
I’m not the most patient girl in the world, so, I look for shortcuts without sacrificing quality. This is one of my favorite shortcuts because it helps yeasted bread doughs rise much faster. Here is how to do it right:
- place some clean, dry towels in the dryer and run it for 10 minutes.
- turn the dryer OFF.
- Place the bowl of dough (covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel) into the dryer and close the door. If the dryer is super hot, leave the door cracked open. The temperature should be warmer than your room but, not too hot.
- Leave the dough in the dryer until it doubles in volume. Brioche (tsoureki) doughs take about an hour and a half to rise.
- Take the dough out and follow the remaining instructions.
What is a cold-rise?
A cold-rise basically means that the dough rises in a cool environment, aka, the refrigerator. Once the dough is kneaded, transfer it to a large greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator so that the dough can rise slowly, overnight. This is done for convenience and to deepen the flavor. As the yeast ferments slowly, it adds more flavor.
The following day, take it out of the refrigerator and shape it. Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment and set aside in a warm spot to rise. Before shaping them, it’s a good idea to take the dough out of the refrigerated container and set it aside (either on the counter or in another bowl) to warm up a bit. An hour should be plenty of time. Proofing the dough too long will give it a bitter flavor so, be careful with this step. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section, below.
The dough spread out and did not hold its shape.
From my experience, any of these two things could have happened:
- The second rise was too long. Once the dough is shaped (into braids, twists, wreaths, or whatever your favorite shape is) it needs to rise again. This time, the rise should not be as long as the first time. This time, we’re not looking for the dough to double in size. 25-30 minutes in a warm room should be sufficient. The braids should puff a little. They’re ready when they hold your finger indentation. If they deflate, they have risen for too long. Just deflate and re-shape them and set aside to rise for 25 minutes. If they rise too long and are then, baked, they spread or deflate in the oven.
- There was too much liquid and not enough flour in the dough. Basically, my advice is to weigh the flour using a kitchen scale. This is the best way to ensure that the right amount of flour was added. I give both (metric, in grams and cups) measurements for the flour. The problem with using cups is that everyone fills the cups differently. Therefore, the end result will vary each time. The dough should be soft and tacky but not sticky. If the correct amount of flour (720 grams per batch) was added and the dough is still sticky after kneading, try adding 1-2 tablespoons of oil and then knead it a little bit longer. Once the stickiness goes away, then it is ready to be transferred into a lightly greased bowl, covered and set aside to rise.
However, if the dough still feels a bit sticky, add a quarter cup of flour, knead it, and it should be fine. Adding too much flour will produce very dry tsourekia.
Practice makes perfect. Once you make a few batches, you will become more familiar with the dough and how it should feel and look and you will create the most delicious tsourekia.
Will the tsoureki stay soft the following day?
Tsoureki tastes best the day it is made. Nothing beats freshly baked bread. However, It will still retain most of its flavor if stored properly.
The best way to keep this sweet bread soft is to store it in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic, or, both. Allow the tsoureki to cool down completely after it is baked. Then wrap it in plastic or put it in an airtight container.
The sweet Easter bread will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 1 month. I recommend wrapping the loaves in plastic, then foil, then place them in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. This will keep them from drying out or absorbing freezer odors.
Thaw the sweet bread overnight in the refrigerator and then let it come to room temperature before serving. It will taste delicious!
Allow them to cool and then either place the loaves in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic wrap. If using the plastic wrap, add a second layer of protection with a freezer bag or container. I mean, you made the sweet breads with so much love so that you and your loved ones can enjoy them for days!
How long should I bake the tsoureki?
Baking times are my enemy when writing recipes. Arghhh! I hate them, especially with baking recipes.
Most ovens vary:
- Some ovens have hotspots in a particular area
- Some are not callibrated and the temperature setting is not accurate
- Placing dough, batter, etc, on all of the racks causes the temperature to drop and this results in longer baking time
- opening the oven drops the temperature as well.
- convection ovens cook faster than non-convection ovens
- the size of the bread also varies: smaller loaves will bake faster than larger loaves
- Do you see why I hate it?
So, here are some words of wisdom:
- If you are making smaller loaves like the small stuffed wreaths that I made in this post, then they will take between 20-30 minutes to bake. Look for color. Check them at the 20 minute mark and if they’ve already developed that beautiful golden color, take them out and insert a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, they are ready. Try not to overbake them or they will be dry. I’d rather slightly underbake and let them sit at room temperature undisturbed. They will continue to bake a little as they cool.
- You can also use a thermometer and once it registers 190 °F in the center of the bread then, they’re ready.
- If you are doubling the recipe, the second, third, fourth tray will take longer to bake simply becasue the oven’s temperature drops each time it is opened.
- It will be confusing the first and second time but, after making this bread a few times you will get to know it well enough to judge better.
Why is my tsoureki crumbling?
The characteristics of a really good tsoureki are the following:
- pillowy soft texture
- it is stringy and does not crumble easily
- the beautiful golden color on top
That’s it! Is that too much to ask? haha!
Kneading the dough too little creates a crumbly cake-like texture. Bread flour requires less kneading. About 10 minutes. However, I like to knead a few minutes longer to ensure the perfect texture. So, the answer is, knead it longer. If you own a tabletop mixer such as a kitchen-aid, this is the time to use it. But, if you’re going to knead it by hand, then, knead for double the time so that you end up with a great tsoureki. Here is my favorite brand.
Can I make tsoureki with all-purpose flour?
Yes, you can! As I am writing this post we are in a stay at home order due to an outbreak. Bread flour is nowhere to be found. Each time we go to the market it is sold out. This was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to test my tsoureki recipe and perfect it using all-purpose flour. I’m so happy to say that it worked perfectly!
The trick to this is in the kneading time. It needs to be kneaded (lol) for double the time! So, if you’re making this in a stand mixer then knead it for 15 minutes total. Kneading by hand will take even loger. About 20-25 minutes.
Knead it very good then allow it to rise and it will be perfect!
Can I bake the loaves with Easter eggs?
Yes! You can add the painted boiled eggs after the loaves are shaped. Then, let them rise, and bake as usual. Alternatively, you can crumble up some parchment paper and place it where the eggs will go after the loaves are baked.
Keep in mind that making tsoureki gets better each time that you bake a batch. Like I said before, ovens vary, flour varies by brand, and practice makes perfect. So, make some this week and let me know what you think in the comments, below.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
Here are links to my favorite tsoureki recipes on this blog:
For the starter:
- 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
The Dry Ingredients:
- 4- 4 and 1/2 cups (720 grams) bread flour
- 1 cup (240 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground mahlepi
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mastic gum (optional)
The Wet Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup (177 ml) lukewarm milk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- zest of an orange
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- The egg wash: 2 egg yolks plus 2-4 tablespoons milk
- dried cranberries, raisins, chopped nuts, candied fruit, ground cardamom, vanilla or almond extract
- 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, mahlepi, and mastic gum together. Mix well to combine.
- Once the yeast is activated, add all of the remaining ingredients to the mixer's bowl. Turn the mixer on low and knead for 8 minutes.
- Add the softened butter and increase the speed to medium (4 on the Kitchen aid) and knead for 2 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.
- Roll each portion into about 13 inch long ropes.
- Form the 3 ropes into a braid and do the same with the remaining three ropes to shape 2 loaves of brioche.
- 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 for 30-40 minutes or until puffy. They should not double in size this time.
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C.
- Brush the tops of the brioche dough with the egg wash.
- Optional: Place a hard-boiled, dyed egg in the braids or top with sliced almonds.
- Bake in the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Once baked and cooled, the bread can be frozen up to a month. Just make sure to wrap it well with plastic wrap.
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 at least 15 minutes so that the gluten forms well to achieve the desired consistency and texture.
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