Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

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Foolproof Tsoureki recipe – traditional Greek Easter bread with mahleb and mastiha just like yiayia used to make! This slightly sweet and fluffy bread is perfect for Easter but delicious year-round.

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Greek Easter Bread – Tsoureki – sliced on a ceramic board

The scent of freshly baked Tsoureki is enough to transport me straight back to my Greek childhood.

This soft and fluffy bread is traditionally baked during Easter in Greece, although these days you can find it throughout the year.

If you are not familiar with Tsoureki then you are in for such a treat. This braided enriched bread looks very similar to Challah but has a unique flavor of its own. 

Tsoureki is traditionally shaped into a three strand braid to symbolise the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What makes Tsoureki so special?

Tsoureki contains two very unique ingredients that give it an incredible aroma that’s unmistakeable! Let’s take a closer look:

Mastiha (mastic gum) Mastiha is the resin of a small evergreen shrub that grows on the Greek island of Chios. Mastic gum is reported to have some health benefits and has been used for centuries. 

In Greece you will find a plethora of products using mastiha, including chewing gum and liqueur. To use in Tsoureki you grind the small crystal gum drops to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. A little goes a long way as mastiha has a strong and very distinctive flavor. 

Mahlepi (a.k.a mahleb, mahlab) is the small kernel of a Persian cherry tree. Mahleb has a subtle cherry / almond, sweet woody flavor. You can buy powdered mahlepi online or in Greek specialist grocery stores. Add a few drops almond extract if you can’t purchase any. 

sliced Greek Tsoureki bread

Tsoureki Ingredients 

You can make tsoureki dough using a stand mixer, a hand mixer with dough hooks or by hand. I used an electric hand mixer in the recipe video as it is easier to demonstrate.

  • White bread flour 
  • Sugar and salt
  • Rapid rise yeast – this type of yeast doesn’t require activation and is mixed directly into the dry ingredients. Also sold as fast action or instant dry yeast.
  • Ground mastiha and mahlepi
  • Orange zest (optional) or for a more intense orange flavor you can replace half the milk with fresh orange juice
  • Large eggs plus a small egg for egg wash
  • Milk, ideally room temperature
  • Unsalted butter, melted or very soft
  • Flaked almonds 
Close up on Greek Easter bread loaf

Proving Your Easter Bread

You will need to prove the dough twice. The bulk rise comes first where the dough is left to prove until doubled in size. The dough is then braided and left to rise once more before baking.

The temperature in your kitchen will affect how long it takes for your dough to rise. On a cold day it will take significantly longer, so I like to place the bowl in the oven or the microwave with the light on (but no heat). 

How to make Tsoureki

Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page. Please take a look at the steps and video before attempting this recipe!

Measure the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, mahlepi and ground mastic gum into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir briefly to combine.

Add the zest, eggs, milk and melted butter. Beat together on a low speed setting using the dough hook attachment until a sticky dough forms. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and is smooth. Don’t be tempted to add more flour unless the dough is very sticky!

Mixing easter bread dough with an electric hand mixer

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and place someplace warm to rise for an hour or until doubled. The dough should gently spring back if prodded with your finger.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and divide the dough into three pieces. Shape each piece into a ball shape. Flatten first then tuck the ends into the centre and roll between your hands to form a ball.

shaping dough into a ball

Flatten the ball with your hand and roll out to a rectangular shape. The dough may shrink as you are trying to roll it out. Leave it to rest for a few minutes then try again if that’s the case.

Roll the dough into a log shape as you would do a Swiss roll. Press the edges down gently with your fingertips as you are rolling to seal.

shaping tsoureki dough into ropes

Roll each section into a thick smooth rope of equal length.

rolling bread dough into a long rope

Pinch the edges of the ropes to seal and braid loosely. Tuck the ends under and transfer your braided bundle onto a lined baking sheet.

Braiding tsoureki dough

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise for 60 – 90 minutes until your tsoureki is plump.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) for at least 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes or until deeply golden and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. You may need to cover the tsoureki after 20 minutes to avoid it browning too much.

Cool on a wire rack, slice and serve. Καλό Πάσχα!

Topping braided tsoureki dough with flaked almonds

Storing Tsoureki

Your Easter bread should stay fresh for several days wrapped in a clean linen towel. It will taste amazing even after it starts becoming a little stale, simply pop a slice in the toaster to serve.

You can also freeze the sliced loaf and toast directly from frozen. So yummy spread with butter for breakfast!

Greek Tsoureki three strand braided Easter bread topped with flaked almonds

HAVE YOU MADE MY TSOUREKI RECIPE? Please leave a rating, post a photo on my Facebookpage, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #supergoldenbakes and make my day!

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Greek Easter Bread – Tsoureki – sliced on a ceramic board

Instructions

  • Measure the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, mahlepi and ground mastic gum into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir briefly to combine.

  • Add the zest, eggs, milk and melted butter. Beat together on a low speed setting using the dough hook attachment until a sticky dough forms. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and is smooth. Don’t be tempted to add more flour unless the dough is very sticky!

  • Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and place someplace warm to rise for an hour or until doubled. The dough should gently spring back if prodded with your finger.

  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and divide the dough into three pieces. I like to weigh the dough first to make sure each piece is of equal weight. Keep covered with plastic wrap.

  • Shape each piece into a ball shape. Flatten first then tuck the ends into the centre and roll between your hands to form a ball.

  • Flatten the ball with your hand and roll out to a rectangular shape. The dough may shrink as you are trying to roll it out. Leave it to rest for a few minutes then try again if that’s the case.

  • Roll the dough into a log shape as you would do a Swiss roll. Press the edges down gently with your fingertips as you are rolling to seal.

  • Roll each section into a rope of equal length.

  • Pinch the edges of the ropes to seal and braid loosely. Tuck the ends under and transfer your braided bundle onto a lined baking sheet.

  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise for 60 – 90 minutes until your tsoureki is plump. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) for at least 30 minutes. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes or until deeply golden and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. You may need to cover the tsoureki after 20 minutes to avoid it browning too much.

  • Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve!

Notes


Mastiha (mastic gum) Mastiha is the resin of a small evergreen shrub that grows on the Greek island of Chios. To use in Tsoureki you grind the small crystal gum drops to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. A little goes a long way as mastiha has a strong and very distinctive flavor. 

Mahlepi (a.k.a mahleb, mahlab) is the small kernel of a Persian cherry tree. Mahleb has a subtle cherry / almond, sweet woody flavor. You can buy powdered mahlepi online or in Greek specialist grocery stores. You can add a few drops almond extract if you can’t purchase any. 
Storing Tsoureki
Your tsoureki should stay fresh for several days wrapped in a clean linen towel. It will taste amazing even after it starts becoming a little stale, simply pop a slice in the toaster to serve. You can also freeze the sliced loaf and toast directly from frozen.
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Nutritional Info

Calories: 178kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 115mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 165IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg



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