As most of you know, my dad is Greek and my mother Russian so we tend to have a lot of European food and follow Orthodox traditions.
This week is our Easter. But we celebrate in a different way than eating hot cross buns, and chocolate. We fast.
Living an Orthodox Life: FastingGluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous.
And, as gluttony calls forth greater and greater gluttony, so fasting stimulates greater and greater endurance.
When a man realizes the grace that comes through fasting, he desires to fast more and more.
And the graces that come through fasting are countless..
Taken from orthodoxinfo.com
We have a set of "rules" we follow as to what we eat and what we don't. Basically it is no animal product over the Easter week, starting from Sunday. It goes till Easter Saturday, when in the morning you go to church for communion, and the fast is broken, but there is still no meat eating till Sunday. The day when most will have a massive lamb, pork or goat, or all of the above on a spit ready to be destroyed.
There are certain "rules" as to what to make/bake when also. Most people bake biscuits on Wednesday, paint eggs, and bake Tsourekia on Thursday, and Good Friday nothing as it is a holy day.
Tsourekia is sort of the Greek version of a brioche, as in it is a sweet bread with eggs and sugar. Traditionally it is baked with red eggs in the centre. This year I'm living with my In-Laws and only helped to bake. So this recipe is my MIL's. The one thing about Greek's is if you ask for something, say a recipe, you get it, sometimes framed with the instructions to call if you need help, or they will just make it for you :)
This bread is amazing toasted with a coffee, and just the right thing to eat on a Saturday morning after the church Communion. Not too heavy, and not too light for the stomach. All the orthodox people that fast will understand the mad rush to the toilet if you get that balance wrong! Too much info??? It is also fantastic made into french toast, or bread and butter pudding. I suppose this is the European version of a hot cross bun.
My MIL's Tsoureki, had to guess at quantities/measurements cause she made a massive batch of 13 breads!
Will make 2 large loaves
1 tablespoon dry yeast, or use fresh
pinch of sugar
3/4-1 cup warmed full cream milk, every flour is different, so it may take more moisture
4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup caster sugar, she likes things sweet, I would add only a 1/3 cup
orange and lemon zest
2 teaspoon mahlepi,*
120 grams butter melted
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, I only add this to one of the loaves and keep the other plain **
sesame seeds and flaked almonds for decorating, I would also add a couple red eggs to mine.
Start with proving the yeast. Add the pinch of sugar to the warm milk, then sprinkle the yeast over the top and mix well. Set it aside for 20 minutes to activate.
In a mixmaster add the flour, sugar, zest, mahlepi and yeast mixture to the bowl fitted with a dough hook and mix for a few minutes till the dough starts to come together. Add more milk or flour if needed. Then while the dough is mixing add the butter and eggs, one at a time. Mix this for about 10 minutes, if you own a Kitchenaid, then it will only take about 6 minutes. Set that aside to double, take about 1 hour, depends on the day.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead lightly for a few minutes, **add the choc chips. Then cut it in half, then in three's so you are left with 6 balls of dough.
roll the pieces into sausage like shapes, then plait them into a loaf shape. Set aside to double in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven about 45minutes in to 210C.
Brush the tops with egg wash, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and almonds. Also this is when I would press a couple a red painted eggs into the plaits. Some are also decorated with an XB for Russian or a XA for Greek, meaning Christ has risen, before baking.
Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until it develops a nice crust, and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. It should have a lovely deep golden colour.
*Mahlepi is a spice ground from the pits of cherries, it can be found in a European deli It has a distinct flavour and really no substitute. But you can add cinnamon if you can't find it.