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Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

Tsoureki recipe (Traditional Greek Easter bread)

Posted in Baked, Breads and pitas, Desserts, Intermediate, Mainland Greece, Our hand picked recipes, Tea and Coffee nibbles, Traditional Greek Easter recipes Originally published on Last updated on By


If you haven’t tried tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) before, then you are certainly missing out! Soft, fluffy, with a beautiful brown semi-soft crust and an amazing stringy texture.. This is the most flavourful tsoureki recipe you will ever try! Greek Easter bread owes its full and rich flavour to the two aromatic spices used in this traditional tsoureki recipe, mastic and mahlab, which give a really characteristic flavour and smell. Once put in the oven, the intense aromas of the sweet spices permeates the house and brings back childhood memories. Freshly ground mastic (masticha), which is an aromatic spice from Chios island, and aromatic mahlab or mahleb (mahlepi), a spice made from ground seeds of cherry, are essential to prepare this tsoureki recipe, giving the traditional Greek Easter bread its sharp and distinctive taste. (You can purchase mastic and mahlepi at Greek grocers or online. I have included some links in the ingredients section below). Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is traditionally served in Easter and the three braids symbolise for the Holy Trinity, but it is also very popular throughout the year as a delicious mid day snack, breakfast or tea or coffee companion.

Tsoureki recipe – How to make the perfect Greek Easter bread dough

It is a common secret, that making your own Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) is quite challenging even for the experienced cooks. But experience has shown me, that it’s all about having the right recipe. This is a no-fail tsoureki recipe (with all the prep photos) for you to succeed on your first time!

Tsoureki dough is all about the rising, which means that the right temperature is key. Once starting to prepare this tsoureki recipe, make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature before using and lukewarm when added in the mixture; this will guarantee that your dough will rise. Give the dough time to rise and it will reward you with its distinctive air-y fluffiness. For this tsoureki recipe, make sure to use bread flour, which has elastic toughness that holds its shape well once baked. The most common mistake for the ones that haven’t tried a tsoureki recipe before is that once the dough is mixed, it resembles a little sticky, so most just add more flour, which result Greek Easter bread to lose its fluffiness. So be careful to add more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for only in case the dough is very sticky after mixing for 15 minutes. Garnish Greek Easter bread with syrup for extra moistness and almond silvers. Oh and you can always read this in Greek if you fancy Συνταγή για αφράτο πασχαλινό τσουρέκι με ίνες! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 135g butter, from cow’s milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 135g milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 200g sugar (7 oz.)
  • 4 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 870g bread flour (30 oz.)
  • 21g dry yeast (0.7 oz.)
  • 100g lukewarm water (3.5 0z.)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3g ground mastic (0.11 oz.) (buy online in Australia, UK, US/CA)
  • 4g ground mahleb (0.14 oz.) (buy online UK, US/CA)
  • 1 egg and 1 tbsp water, for glazing the tsoureki
  • almond silvers for garnish

For the syrup

  • 150g sugar (3.5 oz.)
  • 150g water (3.5 oz.)

Instructions

  1. To prepare this tsoureki recipe (Greek Easter Bread), add in a bowl the lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar and yeast and stir. Wrap well with plastic wrap and set aside for about 6-7 minutes, until the yeast rises and starts bubbling. Be careful not do add hot water, as it will kill the yeast, nor cold, as it will take forever for the Greek Easter bread to rise. The water should be at the same temperature as your finger, so check it out sticking one finger in; you should feel no difference in temperature.
  2. Use a pestle or a blender to ground the masticha and mahlepi, along with a pinch of sugar and set aside. (These aromatic spices will give Greek Easter bread its distinctive taste and amazing smell. But be careful not to add any more mastic than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as it will leave a slightly bitter taste to your Greek Easter bread.)
  3. In a saucepan add the butter, sugar and milk. Place over very low heat and stir the mixture, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. The key is to melt the butter at very low heat, so that the temperature doesn’t ‘kill’ the yeast. Remove the pan from the stove and check the temperature. The mixture should be at the same temperature as your finger. If it is warmer, leave to cool down for a few minutes and check again.
  4. Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest and the butter-egg-yeast mixture from step 4. Using the dough hook mix at first at low speed, until the ingredients start to combine and then mix at medium-high speed for about 15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. At this point the dough should be really soft, like seen in the picture and a little sticky. (Be careful not to add any more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as the dough should be really soft and not firm).
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, until at least it doubles it’s size (for about 2-3 hours). If the environment is cold, preheat the oven at 30C, turn it off and place the bowl inside.
  7. Gently deflate the tsoureki dough with your hands and cut in 6 equal portions (three for each Greek Easter bread). Take one piece of the dough (do not flour the working surface!) and roll it a little bit with your hands. Hold with your hands from the edges and shake to stretch the dough into a rope. This technique will help the Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) form the characteristic stringy texture, as seen in the picture. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the second tsoureki. Let the Greek Easter bread rise for about 1 more hour at room temperature or in the oven, until it almost doubles it’s size, like seen in the picture.
  8. In a small bowl add the egg and 1 tbsp water and whisk with a fork. Brush the top of each Greek Easter bread with the egg, being careful not to deflate it, garnish with almond silvers and bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 40-50 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy.
  9. Although the traditional tsoureki recipe doesn’t call for syrup, garnishing Greek Easter bread with just a little syrup, always gives a little something! So it’s up to you to decide! Prepare the syrup for the Greek Easter bread just right before you turn the tsoureki out of the oven. In a small pot add the sugar and water and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the stove and ladle the hot syrup over the hot tsoureki.
  10. Let the Greek Easter bread cool down and wrap well with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t become hard and dry. Store for up to a 5-7 days at room temperature.
  11. Prepare this traditional tsoureki recipe for your friends and family and enjoy over a hot cup of tea or coffee.

Tsoureki with Nutella Stuffing variation

If you like an extra something in your tsoureki, try adding some Nutella in the braids! When you have stretched the braids out, flatten them with a rolling pin, add a thin strip of Nutella and fold them back into shape. Then proceed with braiding.

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42 Comments

  1. maria kunce says:

    Oh my goodness, oh my goodness….they look divine! I have a recipe very similar and when I have made it in the past I was always a little confused why some worked out and others not. Your explanations are wonderful and now I know what I have to look out for when making it.
    Easter – here I come!!!
    Thank you. Maria 🙂

  2. selene32607 says:

    Το δοκιμασα. Εγινε πολυ καλο. Πιστευω πως θα χρειαζοταν λιγο περισσοτερο αλευρι γιατι
    η ζυμη με αυτες τις αναλογιες κολουσε στη λεκανη του μιξερ. Επισης βρηκα καπως δυσκολες τις οδηγιες με τα μετρα οπως δινονται. Χρειασθηκε να ζυγιζω τα υλικα στη μικρη ζυγαρια.

  3. Thank you sooooooo much for this AMAZING recipe …. my family ate it all and if they could they would of ate the plate with it too hahah that is how absolutely delicious it was
    christos anesti

  4. I would like to make this recipe, I remember my godmother use to make it all the time. It was my favourite. However, I have a slight issue. I am allergic to dairy products. Can I use almond or coconut milk instead of regular milk? Also can I use coconut oil instead of the butter?

    • Hi Mary

      I have not tried making it using coconut oil or milk substitutes. However I believe that soya milk might be better suited. Coconut oil should be ok as long as you like coconut flavour 🙂 Let me know how it goes, I’m keen to give it a go myself!

      Love

      Eli

      • I can’t use soya milk, I am allergic to it. I’ve used coconut oil with many recipes, and they turn out great. Soon I’ll try the recipe. When I do, I’ll let you know how it went. Thanks!

      • Ah I see… 🙁 Hope it turns out amazing and looking forward to your feedback!

        Love

        Eli

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  6. Made this recipe for the first time and was amazing nice and fluffy and very light thank you for this wonderful recipe now I’m all organised for Easter don’t have to practise or find another recipe this is a keeper

  7. gprovida says:

    I noticed the recipe has no salt. I presume you are using salted butter, so I added 1tsp salt with the unsalted butter.

    The recipe is nice, but the process pictures were especially useful since different mixers need different times to get to the right knead. My Kitchenaide 7qt needed only 12-13 min. I was worried about over kneading, but your picture assured me I got it right.

    Thanks for a lovely recipe that I will share on Western Easter with my Wife’s Church and Orthodox Easter a week later for us.

    • hi there, I dont use salt as I wanted the dough to get really fluffy. Salt acts as an inhibitor to the yeast and regulates how quickly it rises, so I left it out on purpose. That being said, I see no reason why not using salted butter or adding 2 teaspoons of salt to the flour mix, after the yeast has been mixed in to avoid killing it 🙂

      So glad you liked it! With tsoureki its always difficult to know when its done enough so decided to post as many pictures as I could 🙂

      Love

      Eli

  8. Hi!
    This will be the second time I have made tsoureki and I am very excited to try this one out! Based on this recipe, is there any tips that need to be said? Anything I have to be careful of?
    Thank You!
    Elli

    • Hi Elli

      A couple of things to keep an eye on:
      1. Double rise – let the dough rise once in the bowl and second time when they have been formed into a braid. That will make them extra fluffy and airy!
      2. The syrup – I personally love my tsoureki sweet. So I always garnish it with some syrup to give it that extra bit of deliciousness. Dont worry, it wont get soggy, but it will have a delicious glaze around it!
      3. Remember to use bread flour and be careful not to add more flour than necesary. The dough needs to be a little sticky at the end before making it into the braid. Also remember to shake the dough to form it into large strings, dont roll them as they will not be stringy when you eat them 🙂
      4. Make sure the temperature of your room / oven is correct for proofing – not too hot but not too cold. It needs to be about 37C which is roughly body temperature.

      I’ve got all my tips on the recipe but the above would be the top 4 to keep an eye for! And dont forget to check out my photos, the recipe is simpler than it sounds 🙂

      Love

      Eli

  9. Connie giagiopoulos says:

    I am going to try this tomorrow. Thankyou for sharing xx happy Easter

  10. Bravo polli orea!! just come out of the oven and it’s perfect! I know my kids will want a nutella version, do you just paste it on during construction of the plexoutha or?? Kalo pasxa

  11. Mina Nodaros says:

    Hi Eli!
    a few questions – is there any reason that you do not knead dough after it rises in the bowl? Also, is bread dough good to use or not? As for yeast i will be using wet /fresh yeast (not dry in packets). Do you have a measurement for that. One piece of the wet yeast is equal to 3 packets (that is what the wrapper of fresh yeast says.

    • I dont knead a second time as I want to keep as much of the air inside as possible. Just gently deflate and form into the strings and braid.

      Hm, fresh yeast is a difficult beast 🙂 It really depends on the yeast’s strenght and I find that it gives a slightly different flavour as well. A handy conversion is to multiply dry yeast weight by 3 when going for fresh yeast, so you will need ~60 grams of fresh yeast.

      Love

      Eli

  12. Kelly Condoleon says:

    Hi Eli. Can I use 1% milk ?

  13. Eli, your recipe looks wonderful!. For years I have tried to make it from recipe of an elderly Aunt, but never had great results. Today I made it again using your recipe and am waiting now for the dough to proof. It is exactly as you describe and I am looking forward to bring it to completion. By the way, all of the recipes of yours that I have seen on here look excellent. Most are very similar to the way my family prepares the food. They are from the Kalamata region of Greece. May I ask what are you are from?

    Sincere thanks,

    Anthony

  14. Hi Eli
    Do you know how much 135g of milk is in mls or cups please
    Maria

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  16. i made this last year and they came out a bit thinner than i wanted what measurements are the braids roughly using finger measurements

  17. Hi there – I’ve made this recipe twice – measuring the ingredients exactly as the recipe states but my dough is more firm than sticky at the end. Not sure what I’m doing wrong? Any advice? Thanks Kathy

  18. Jennifer Weber says:

    Hi. I made this for the first time today, although I have made Swiss zoph before which is a bit similar. I don’t have a mixer with a dough attachment but I do have a bread maker so I put the dough on the dough setting for about 30 minutes. I was really pleased with how light the bread came out. Unfortunately where I live (small country town in Australia) mastic is just too expensive and difficult to get but I ordered mahlepi online and love the smell of it. Since I can’t get the mastic should I increase the amount of mahlepi?
    I didn’t read the instructions well about making two loaves so made one really big loaf.

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  20. Papou Nick says:

    Yikes, the dough is so stiff that I burned out (stripped the gears) of TWO Kitchenaid mixers in a row. I weigh everything in grams and double check each time. My thought would be to reduce the flour or increase the water to get a looser dough. Any suggestions?

  21. Im a bit confused – does this ‘bakers bowl’ consist of an electric whisk? how do i combine the ingredients together?

  22. Hi I cant get Mastic or Mahleb in Singapore. Are there substitutes?

  23. paula varitimidis says:

    can someone please give the measurements in cups spoons and oz.

  24. Angela Herbert says:

    Hi, is there a video for this recipe yet ???

    • I’ll be making one soon – got a bit busy with easter this year and did not have time to make one on time 🙁

  25. Victoria Rindosh says:

    I do not put mastic in my tsourekia, just the mahlep. Mother’s recipe from the island of Lesbos, did not use.

    • Personally I love the aroma of mastic so I prefer the tsourekia with it 🙂 But of course you can skip it if you want to.

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  28. Interesting everyone found flour ok.
    My dough was far too sticky to do anything with it so ended up adding about a cup of extra flour!
    In oven now so will see how it turns out

  29. For some reason, the top and side crusts of my tsourekia end up being hard, not soft like they should be. The bottom, however, does stay soft. Do you know what I could be doing wrong? Thank you for this recipe.

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