Isn’t it interesting how unlike Christmas, there aren’t really any desserts associated with Easter? Obviously, light, fruity desserts feel right for springtime but I am not aware of any treats that are made solely for Easter. That is, apart from the celebration breads that are made in most countries around the Mediterranean. In Greece, this is called Tsoureki and it is a sweet, braided loaf with a brioche-like texture.
My mum and I have been using this recipe since I can remember and I couldn’t find the original source. I can however guarantee that this yields a delicious bread that is wonderful for breakfast or to accompany coffee after your Easter meal.
bookworm’s variation: We do a simple three-strand braid but you could try your hand at a six-strand one for a more impressive look. I’ve also seen variations of this where instead of using almonds as a topping, the bread is covered in melted white chocolate or apricot jam.
Makes 4 loafs
2 tbs dried yeast
1 kg self raising flour
1 pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
1 cup of milk
4 tbs unsalted butter
1 cup of caster sugar + 1 tbs of caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tbs of milk
handful of flaked almonds
In a cup of warm water, mix in the dried yeast and 1 tbs of sugar and set aside for 10 mins. Then add 1 cup of flour and mix. Leave the mixture to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hour.
Beat the eggs and egg yolks and set aside. Place a pan on low heat and pour in the milk, butter and sugar. Mix until combined. Remove the pan from heat and slowly add the beaten eggs, lemon juice and zest.
Pour this mixture in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture. then proceed to add the remainder of flour and mix until you get a firm dough. Knead in the bowl for about 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag or wrap and put in a warm place for 2-3 hours, until it doubles in volume.
Tip the dough on to a floured surface and knock back the air by kneading it for 5-10 minutes. Then, divide the dough in 4 parts. Each part should be separated into 3 parts that you roll out to form the strands, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Stick the 3 strands together on one end and proceed to make a braid.
Carefully lift the loafs and place on buttered baking sheets. Cover and leave in a warm place until double in size.
Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 210C/400F/Gas 6. Brush the egg and milk wash over the loafs and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the loaves are lovely and golden brown. Set the loaves to cool on wire racks.