Recipe by Pierre Roelofs for Prahran Cooking School
Among the countless variations on the recipe are the addition of chocolate as an icing or filling, a scattering of flaked almonds or sesame seeds over the top, or the addition of other flavourings (vanilla, mastic, cardamom) to the dough. The most popular flavouring is mahlepi, an aromatic spice ground from the seeds of the European cherry Prunus mahaleb. A plaited loaf or wreath is the most common shape; the plait helps to segment the golden crust so the tsoureki can readily be pulled apart into morsels. The ring shape, like the red eggs that adorn it, relates to Easter’s theme of renewal, which makes the bread ideal for breaking the long Lenten fast.
Ingredients (serves 10):
500g strong flour
21g dried yeast
salt, a pinch
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus extra for brushing
50g caster sugar
2 oranges, grated zest only
2 tsp mahlepi
100ml water, lukewarm temperature
75g softened butter, coarsely chopped, plus extra to serve
For the red Easter eggs:
Greek red egg dye
1. Combine flour, yeast & a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, form a well in the centre. Add milk, eggs, sugar, orange rind, mahlepi & 100ml lukewarm water & mix until a soft dough forms (5 – 7 minutes).
2. Gradually add butter, a little at a time, mixing until a smooth soft dough forms (3 – 5 minutes), place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & set aside until doubled in size (40 minutes – 1 hour). Meanwhile, for the red Easter eggs, follow instructions on packet to cook & dye eggs then set aside to cool completely.
3. Knock back dough & divide into 2,3,4 or 5 pieces. Roll each piece into an even cylinder, plait pieces together, then form a wreath or loaf. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper & set aside to prove slightly (20 minutes).
4. Preheat oven to 170°C. Brush wreath with egg wash, gently push red Easter eggs (unpeeled) into wreath/loaf & bake until wreath is golden & cooked through (25 – 30 minutes). Cool on a wire rack, serve with butter.
You can substitute Mahlepi with a flavouring such as mastic or cardamom. Red egg dye is available (usually around Easter time) from Greek & Italian delicatessens. Instructions & the quantity required vary from brand to brand.