The best tsoureki! A greek style brioche, tsoureki is the perfect Easter bread.
This is the best tsoureki recipe I’ve ever made. I’ve been making it for weeks and it comes out exactly the same every single time. It’s really delicious and makes the best french toast.
I let my stand mixer do all the work for me, but you can definitely knead by hand. Just add an additional 4-5 minutes to your kneading time. It has to be kneaded for a long time for the gluten to form and get that sweet bread texture.
- Active dry yeast
The flour and sugar feed the yeast, so put it all together for about 10 minutes. Make sure your milk is lukewarm. If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast. If it’s too cold, it will take a lot longer to activate the yeast. You’ll know when the starter is ready when it develops a foamy fluffy cloud on top. It means the yeast is active. It’s important not to skip this step to make sure that your yeast is alive and active.
- Bread flour
- Mastiha aka ground mastic gum (optional)
- Zest of one orange
- Pure vanilla extract
- Unsalted butter
What is Mastiha?
Mastiha is also known as Mastic Gum. You can find it in specialty food stores that sell Greek or Middle Eastern food products. It’s an acquired taste, not everybody likes it. But I grew up with this flavor in my desserts, so I’m used to it and I really love it. You only need a tiny bit. Sometimes when you can’t find things they become very expensive and really not worth all the effort. So, if you can find it, you can leave it out. You can just substitute vanilla extract or even some cardamom seeds if you like that.
What is Mahlepi?
Mahlepi is a definite must. It’s also known as mahlab. It’s cherry pits that you can grind yourself or you can find it already pre-ground. It’s delicious. You can’t substitute anything for this flavor but again, if you can’t find it, leave it out. You can use some vanilla extract or some dried fruit in there.
After you add all of the ingredients to your starter, knead it in your mixer for 8 Minutes. This is a fairly sticky dough, so don’t expect it to find a round ball of dough. It’s going to be sticky, but just make sure you knead it for 8 minutes. Then, add your butter a little at a time and knead for another 2 minutes.
Put 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil in a large bowl, and transfer your dough to this bowl. It’s going to be really sticky to work with, but once it touches the oil it becomes easier to work with. You can coat it with the oil, and form it into a ball. Cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside in the warmest place in your house. Leave it for about 1 and a half to 2 hours, until it completely doubles in size.
How to make bread proof quicker
I have a trick that cuts at least 30 minutes off the time my dough takes to double in size. I put it in the dryer! Put a bunch of towels in the dryer and run it on high heat for about a couple of minutes so it gets really nice and warm in there. Then, turn the dryer off and put your bowl in there. Close the door and let it just sit in there until it’s doubled. I use this method whenever I bake bread and it works every time.
When your dough has doubled, cut into two equal pieces. Set one aside and cut the other in 3 equal pieces. If your dough is sticky and difficult to work with, you can use a little flour to make it easier. Just make sure that you very lightly dust your workspace, like not more than a tablespoon. If you use too much flour, your dough will toughen up and you won’t have a light tsoureki.
How do you braid tsoureki?
Roll each of your 3 pieces into rods about 12-13 inches. I use my pan as a guide so they fit perfectly on the pan every time. Then, you just braid the 3 ropes together and pinch the ends. Carefully put it on a baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper and repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
After you’ve braided both, cover the pan with plastic wrap. Put it back in the warm place in your house for about 30 minutes to rise again until puffy but, not doubled in size. Make sure you give them enough time to get beautiful and fluffy or you’ll have dense brioche. You don’t want that. It should be light and airy.
Make an egg wash with one egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of water. Then brush it over your brioche loaves. It creates a beautiful mahogany-colored brioche when it’s ready.
If your oven is accurate, these will take exactly 30 minutes in the oven. You’ll want to look for a beautiful dark golden color. Let them rest for 30 minutes so they cool properly and aren’t doughy on the inside.
This is a perfect easter greek brioche bread that’s not too sweet and compliments lots of dishes. Try my other tsoureki recipes as well… apple-filled tsoureki, pumpkin and cranberry tsoureki, and my tsoureki french toast.
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.