Easy to make Sweet tsoureki heaven!
Watch the Video
This delicious tsoureki braid filled with cream cheese and preserves looks just like a danish but tastes even better. It has all the aromatic flavors of tsoureki, like mahlepi, orange, and vanilla. The bread is fluffy, and the filling is to die for! You can make this for your Easter breakfast table or serve it as dessert. Sharing is caring, right?
Tsoureki is sweet Greek holiday bread that is flavored with orange zest, mahlab, and mastic. The dough for tsoureki is pretty easy to make. I’ve done it so many times that I created a foolproof guide to making tsoureki here on my blog. It answers all of the most popular questions and covers all of the problems you may encounter. I’ve been making it for years, and if you follow the tips and tricks, it will come out delicious every time.
The perfect sweet bread to serve at Easter
- Soft, fluffy mahlepi flavored danish
- Creamy cheese and preserves filling
- Sweet vanilla glaze
- Everyone will be in soft tsoureki heaven with this sweet, creamy, and preserve filled danish-style braid
What you’ll need
For the starter:
- Milk –lukewarm temp is essential to activate the yeast
- Active dry yeast
- Sugar –feeds the yeast
- All-purpose flour
The Dry Ingredients:
- Bread flour –or all-purpose flour. Use a kitchen scale to measure this for the most accurate measurement.
- Granulated sugar
- Ground mahlepi –this gives the tsoureki its characteristic flavor, so don’t leave it out
- Ground mastic gum (optional) –finely ground
The Wet Ingredients:
- Lukewarm milk –just like in the starter, you need this to be lukewarm for the yeast to activate and proof easily
- Large eggs –beaten and room temperature so it doesn’t cool the milk
- Zest of an orange –always zest before juicing
- Pure vanilla extract –good quality and not much more than this to avoid an alcohol flavor
- Unsalted butter –softened at room temperature to mix in well
- Egg wash: 2 egg yolks plus 2-4 tablespoons of milk
- Sliced almonds for garnish
- Jam/preserves –use your favorite
- Cream cheese –softened at room temperature
- Granulated sugar
- Egg yolk –save the whites for meringue or egg-white omelets
- Vanilla extract
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Vanilla extract –use good quality vanilla for the best flavor
I suggest getting the mahlepi whole and grinding it in the food processor or using a mortar and pestle. That way, it’s nice and fresh. I don’t recommend substituting anything for the mahlepi in this recipe because it’s what gives tsoureki its distinct flavor. You should be able to find it in any Middle Eastern store or online. However, if you really don’t want to get it, you can use a little extra vanilla, orange zest, or even anise seeds.
I used a jam and cream cheese filling for this post, but you could fill this tsoureki braid with so many different fillings. If you love the almond paste filling known as frangipane, it would also go really nice with the jam. A chocolate hazelnut spread like Nutella would turn it into a chocolaty braid. You could even do a cinnamon raisin filling to create a Cinnabon! Let me know what you use for filling in your tsoureki braid.
How to make Tsoureki Danish Braid Filled with Cream Cheese
Make the Dough:
- Whisk the starter ingredients in the bowl of a tabletop mixer 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 and mix well.
- Once the yeast is activated, add all remaining ingredients to the mixer’s bowl and turn the mixer on low. Knead for 10 minutes.
- Add the softened butter, 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. Depending on your house’s temperature, it could take up to 4 hours. (See proofing options)
- Punch down the dough to remove the air and cut it into two equal portions.
Make the Cream cheese filling
- Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Assemble the Braids
- On a parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle –about 10 x 15-inch (25-x-36-cm).
- Use a knife to mark two lines down the pastry to separate it into thirds. Do not cut all the way through.
- Then, cut diagonal slits down the sides of the dough (see video).
- Spread half of the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough and dollop the preserves on top.
- Alternating the strips from each side, fold them over the filling to form a crisscross (braid) pattern.
- Lift the parchment paper and carefully place the braid onto a baking tray.
- Assemble the second danish and place it on the baking tray.
- Brush the top of the braids with egg wash and sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top.
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C
- Set the braids aside to rise for 30 minutes until puffy (not doubled in size).
- Bake on the center rack for 30 minutes.
- Allow the pastries to cool completely.
- Then, make the glaze by whisking all of the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.
- Drizzle the glaze over the tsoureki.
The dough for tsoureki is dense, so it takes a while for it to double in size while proofing. If your house is cold, it could take as much as five hours. So, I’ve got two tricks to help with proofing.
- Proof overnight –Store it in the refrigerator overnight to slow rise after covering your dough with plastic wrap. Pull the dough from the fridge about an hour before using it to warm up to room temperature.
- Quick proofing –Myfavorite place to quick-rise dough is in the dryer. This trick usually cuts 30 minutes from the rise time. Here’s what I do:
- I put 3-4 clean bath towels in the dryer and turned it on (high heat setting) for about 5-6 minutes.
- I place the bowl with the dough into the dryer (on top of the warm towels) and close the door.
- Make sure the dryer is OFF!!
- Remove from the dryer when it has doubled in volume.
If you have a lot of things going on the morning of Easter, make this sweet tsoureki ahead of time. The baked tsoureki braids can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, bring to room temperature on the counter, and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. How easy is that?
Whether you serve your tsoureki braids for breakfast or dessert, always serve them with hot Greek coffee. The slight bitterness from the coffee compliments the sweetness of the braid and makes for a great combo. Let me know what you fill yours with, and I’d love to see the pictures, too! Kali Orexi!
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
- Garnish: Sliced almonds
- 1 cup of your favorite jam/preserves
- 8 oz (230g) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the Dough:
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 10 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. It could take up to 4 hours depending on the temperature of the house.
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.
Make the Cream cheese filling: Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Assemble the Braids:
On a parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle. About 10-x-15-inch (25-x-36-cm). Use a knife to mark 2 lines down the pastry separating it into thirds. Do not cut all the way through. Cut diagonal slits down the sides of the dough (see video).
Spread half of the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough and dollop the preserves on top.
Alternating the strips from each side, fold them over the filling to form a criss-cross (braid) pattern.
Lift the parchment paper and carefully place the braid onto a baking tray.
Assemble the second danish and place on the baking tray.
Brush the top of the braids with egg wash and sprinkle the sliced almonds over top.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C
Set the braids aside to rise for 30 minutes until puffy (not doubled in size).
Bake on the center rack for 30 minutes.
Allow the pastries to cool completely.
Make the glaze by combining all of the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Drizzle the glaze over the tsourekia.
Serve with Greek coffee. Kali Orexi!
Freezer Instructions: The baked tsoureki braids can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen for up to a month. Thaw and toast in the oven for 5 minutes and serve.
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