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Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki)

Tsoureki is a super fluffy and soft yeast egg-enriched bread flavored with citrus and aniseed. It's a traditional Greek Easter bread, but can be enjoyed any time of the year.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: braided bread, Easter
Servings: 2 large braids
Author: Lora

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 packets active dry yeast (two 1/4 ounce envelopes)
  • 4 eggs , room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (may need more as mixing)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp aniseed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter , room temperature (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 4-6 dyed eggs
  • pearlized sugar , to decorate

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Instructions

  • If you are adding colored eggs, now is the time to color them. Follow the dye directions on the box or use natural dye and let the eggs sit for an hour. The longer they site the more vibrant the color.
  • In a small saucepan heat the milk over medium to 110 F (I just test the water with my finger and know it’s the right temperature…warm like the temperature of a baby bottle, not hot). Add the yeast to a small bowl with the warm milk and whisk it around with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).
  • Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and set aside.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar, flour, lemon zest, aniseed and salt.
  • Pour the flour mixture in the bowl of a mixer. With dough hook attached and mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk mixture (*the milk mixture has the milk, yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, eggs, vanilla) to the flour mixture.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and salt.
  • Pour the flour mixture in the bowl of a mixer. With dough hook attached and mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk mixture (*the milk mixture has the milk, yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, eggs, vanilla) to the flour mixture.
  • Hold onto your mixer! Now you will add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. I tell you to hold unto it because it will move around if you are mixing it on too fast of a speed. Start on medium-low speed. If you notice the mixer moving too much, you can lower the speed and let the butter get gently incorporated into the dough. If you have the mixture at a faster speed at this point…do not leave it alone while it’s mixing. It could bounce off the counter.
  • Be sure to mix well when all the butter is added (about 3-5 minutes). You may need to add more flour. Don't worry about the total amount of flour, keep adding until your dough is stiff and it is not sticky.
  • Put a little flour onto a clean counter and scrape the dough out of mixer onto the counter. Knead the dough a little and shape the dough into a ball (you won’t be kneading the dough too much…just a bit to shape it into an elastic ball of dough).
  • Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl.Rub a little oil on top of the dough and cover it to rest in a draft-free area for a bout 1-1 1/2 hours. The dough will be doubled in size. Punch down the dough.
  • If you are making one large braid, roll each piece into strips about 15 “ long. If you are making two braids, the strips will be a bit smaller (sorry, I did not measure the strips).Pinch the left side together to secure the three pieces and braid the 3 strips. Pinch the other side together on the right to secure it closed.
  • The fun part is tucking in the eggs wherever you’d like it in between the braids and cover the dough with a kitchen towel for about 40-45 minutes. I tucked in 3 eggs in each braid. When dough is about ready, preheat the oven to 350 F. Mine was ready to bake at 40 minutes.
  • Whisk together the egg and water for the egg wash and brush it on the dough avoiding the eggs. Sprinkle on the pearlized sugar (if using).
  • Place the dough on a parchment lined baking pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Check on your bread at about 25 minutes, you don't want it too brown.