Friday, March 21, 2008

Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

A sweet eggy bread, sort of like challah. Don't skip the orange zest. I won second prize in the Ionia Free Fair in Michigan with this bread last summer.

1 cup warm milk (about 110 F)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons orange juice or concentrate
1 tablespoon (or one packet) yeast
about 5 cups white flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon salt

In a big bowl, combine the milk, sugar, butter, orange juice, yeast, and one cup of the flour. This mix must be the right temperature - warm to the touch but not hot - or the yeast won't work! Let it sit in a warm place until it bubbles, about 20 minutes.

Separate one of the eggs and set aside the yolk. Stir the white and all the remaining ingredients into the dough. When it's too thick to stir, turn it onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Return it to the bowl and cover with a towel. Let sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide in three pieces. Roll the pieces into long ropes and braid them. On a greased baking sheet, lay the braid into a circle or wreath shape. If you want, nestle dyed eggs into the wreath. Let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Mix the egg yolk with a little water or milk and brush it onto the bread. Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the bread about 30 minutes.

Makes one large and beautiful loaf, suitable for feeding hungry Morris dancers who are staying at your house prior to the Easter parade.

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