Holidays, Mediterranean Desserts

Tsoureki- Sweet Greek Easter Bread

Tsoureki, the traditional Greek Easter bread is soft, tender, lightly sweet and so aromatic. What sets it apart are the spices and aromatics.

tsoureki sliced

Ahh the tsoureki! This is a sweet bread made traditionally for Easter (but really you can have it as a treat year-round). It is soft, tender, lightly sweet and so aromatic! It is made with eggs, milk and butter plus the secret aromatic ingredients. These ingredients are celebratory ingredients to be enjoyed after the 40-day period of fasting where animal products were avoided.

One can say it has some similarities with brioche and challah, but what sets it apart are the 2 spices and aromatics added to it: namely mastiha and mahleb as well as orange zest. These give it the unique Greek taste that is tsoureki! I provide some links below to find these spices.

Super Easy Tsoureki Recipe

Tsoureki can be intimidating. The yeast, the kneading, the shape. I have tried and tested many tsoureki recipes. This one is by far one of the most reliable and foolproof recipes. It is straightforward and delicious. For ease the dough is kneaded with a dough hook on my mixer and the key here is the multiple risings of the dough. I can’t explain the joy I get when I see the dough rise! The texture is light, fluffy and “stringy”. I preferred to make small simple ones twisted into braids, rather than the large ones.

What is Mastiha and Mahleb

what is mastiha mahleb
Mastiha on the right, Mahleb on the left

These are 2 spices that are necessary when making tsoureki.

Mastiha is basically resin from the mastiha trees and appears in drops (see photo). While these mastiha trees may grow in other areas in the Mediterranean and produce resin, only the Chios trees produce the mastiha “tears” that have the characteristic aroma (a combination of pine and cedar), and health benefits. You can learn more about mastiha here >> Chios Mastiha: A very special Greek ingredient

Mahleb is an aromatic spice derived from the seeds of a type of cherry tree. Its flavor has hints of bitter almond and cherry.

How to Make Tsoureki

I’m showing here the main steps with photos to get an idea of what your dough should look like. It would be ideal to weigh all the ingredients. I have provided both metric and imperial measurements.

Yeast for tsoureki
Start by activating the yeast. For this recipe I simply mix the yeast with warm milk (the temperature of the milk should not be above 120 F or 50 C), orange zest and sugar.
tsoureki dough texture
Once you add all the ingredients you want to knead it until the dough is soft and stretchy and unsticks from bowl, it should not be a tough and sturdy dough so don’t add any additional flour. It may be a touch sticky at first, just add a bit of olive oil to your fingers to handle it.
tsoureki dough
After letting the dough rest in a bowl covered for 1 ½ hour you will see the strands that have developed.
kneading tsoureki
Now you can shape your tsoureki. Just separate in 4 pieces and weigh them if needed. Roll out in long cords about 12-13 inches and then twist into a braid.
Tsoureki braids
Let the dough rest again
baking tsoureki
After 2 hours of resting, they will have doubled in size. Now you are ready to bake them!
tsoureki recipe
Brush with the egg wash and then add slivered almonds and/or sesame seeds and in they go!
Tsoureki Greek Sweet Easter Bread
The house smells absolutely wonderful and in less than 30 minutes the tsoureki is ready!
tsoureki texture
Look at those strands…

How to Eat Tsoureki

In my opinion there is nothing better than a piece of tsoureki with your morning coffee. You can also serve it with  butter or jam or Nutella. And if you have a lot of leftovers, you can always make it into French toast.

How Long Does Tsoureki Last

Tsoureki can last 4-5 days. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a ziplock bag in room temperature. You can also freeze it.

Tsoureki- Sweet Greek Easter Bread

how to eat tsoureki
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 3 hours 30 minutes
The traditional Greek Easter bread that is soft, tender, lightly sweet and so aromatic. What sets it apart are the secret spices and aromatics.
Course: Dessert, holiday
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Bread, Tsoureki, Yeast Bread
Servings: 4 small tsoureki
Author: Elena Paravantes RDN
Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tsp (4.5 g) dry yeast
  • Orange zest from 1 orange
  • 50 g (1.8 oz about 6 1/3 tbsp) granulated white sugar
  • 60 ml (2 oz) milk warm (not hot)
  • 1/8 tsp ground mastiha
  • 1/8 tsp ground mahleb
  • 250 g (8.8 oz or 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 small eggs or one extra large
  • 1/3 tsp fine salt
  • 75 g (2.6 oz) butter cold and cubed

For the egg wash

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

To sprinkle

  • Slivered almonds and or sesame for sprinkling

Instructions

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In the mixer bowl add half of the sugar, the dry yeast, orange zest and warm milk. Mix by hand with a whisk and set aside for 10 minutes so that the yeast will be activated.
  • In a food processor add the other half of the sugar, the mahleb and mastiha and process until all combined. If you are not using ground mahleb and mastiha crush them first with a mortar and pestle.
  • In a separate bowl mix the flour with the sugar/spices mixture and add to the yeast mixture. Mix with the hook for a couple of minutes on medium to high.
  • Add the eggs and continue mixing with the hook, lower the speed and add the salt and butter pieces. Increase the speed and knead for 10-15 minutes or until dough is stretchy and stringy. It will be soft and unstick from the bowl. Do not add additional flour. Add some olive oil to your fingers if dough is sticking a bit to your hands.
  • In a lightly greased bowl, place the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm place for 1 ½ hour.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and separate it in 4 equal pieces (weigh them if necessary). Add some olive oil to your fingers if dough is sticking a bit to your hands. Roll out each piece in a cord about 13 inches long, fold in half to twist into a large braid. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Do this with the rest of the pieces.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven at 340 F (170 C)
  • In a small bowl, mix 1 egg, 1 tsp sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Brush the mixture over each tsoureki. Sprinkle with slivered almonds or sesame seeds.
  • Bake for about 20 -30 minutes until the tsoureki is golden-brown.
  • Remove from oven, let it sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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13 Comments

  • Reply Shannon April 30, 2021 at 7:52 am

    This turned out wonderful! I’m not the best baker so I was pleasantly surprised! Thank you Elena5 stars

  • Reply Vicki Kouris April 30, 2021 at 3:08 am

    Thank you for the recipe, although I could not yet the yeast to activate with the 25g of sugar. It worked with the teaspoon. Can you advise why?
    Also Can the recipe be doubled and still work?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN April 30, 2021 at 6:42 am

      Yes, you can double the recipe Vicki. I’m not sure why it did not activate. Make sure the temperature of the milk is not too high, it should be warm.

  • Reply Chris Richter April 29, 2021 at 3:23 am

    Thanks for a tsoureki recipe that doesn’t involve 10 or 12 cups of flour, and make a loaf that covers half a stremma! I don’t run a restaurant, and in these times of Covid, won’t be having 30 guests forEaster, so your recipe looks like the perfect size. Excited to try it.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN April 30, 2021 at 7:55 am

      Ha ha , yes, exactly!

  • Reply Ellen April 19, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    Is it ok to use only mahleb? I don’t have any mastiha.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN April 30, 2021 at 7:54 am

      Yes, using only mahleb is fine.

  • Reply Shannon April 3, 2021 at 6:48 am

    I made them! they turned out beautiful! I had never made this before but they came out just like yours. I’ll be making a second for tomorrow.5 stars

  • Reply Patricia April 2, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Instant yeast does not need to be dissolved in a warm liquid. That’s why it’s called instant. It is smaller granules so you just toss it in with the flour.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN April 2, 2021 at 10:24 pm

      Correct, I used plain dry yeast not instant yeast, corrected in the ingredients.

  • Reply Barb April 2, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    I am Celiac. I have GF recipes for cinnamon buns, white bread, Challah and brioche. Would adding the spices from this recipe to one of those provide a similar result? I haven’t yet mastered just replacing a general all purpose GF flour for a gluten bread recipe as GF bread is extremely challenging to make. I used to make regular bread pre diagnosis so I have the skills if the recipe works. I am missing the foods my great Greek aunties used to make and would love to make this as well. Thanks!

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