These days it is possible to find Tsourekis all year round, a traditional Greek Easter Bread prepared on Holy Thursday and served Easter Sunday to celebrate the breaking of Lent.
Many families have their own special recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next – one of the best things when it comes to traditional recipes. Godparents in Greece will gift these to their Godchildren and vice versa.
Traditionally the preparation of Easter Tsoureki will begin on Holy Thursday. The eggs will be dyed on that day and the dough will be made and baked in readiness for Sunday. I love Tsoureki and I only became familiar with it since I’ve lived in the Riverland where we have and extensive Greek community. It all started when I became curious about certain spices that suddenly appeared in our local supermarket during Easter: Mahlepi & Mastika (I wrote about these a few blogs ago). These are the key ingredients in a Tsoureki and it is said that:
without these ingredients a “Tsoureki would not be a Tsoureki”
I have also been told that the aroma of these special ingredients will evoke nostalgic tears into the eyes of some. There are other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed and fennel that are used on occasion. I’ve even noticed cardamom and the use of bay leaf in some but I’m not sure how traditional this would be. Perhaps such ingredients are the secret ingredients used in the variations of different family recipes…
Dyeing eggs is a big Easter tradition in many countries, and during Easter the emergence of different egg dyes is also very noticeable at our local supermarket. In a Tsoureki, red eggs are embedded into the dough to commemorate the blood of Christ. The colour red also represents life and the egg is a symbol for the renewal of life. The Greeks also refer to Holy Thursday as: “Red Thursday” in reference to eggs being dyed red that day.
Tsourekis are braided either in a log form or into a circular ring, as the latter is a symbol of eternity and the renewal of life. Three braids are used in the braiding, along with three eggs because this represents the Holy Trinity.
The origin of Tsoureki breads in Greece possibly started during the Turkish Ottoman occupation approximately 400 years ago. The word Tsoureki is derived from the Turkish word “corek”, which means bread made with yeast, who baked similar breads, both savoury and sweet, in various shapes and sizes. The Greeks adopted these by making their own version with eggs, butter and milk. These types of breads are also known as “Labropsomo” and “Labrokouloro”. During Byzantine times they were called “Kollyrides”, another special bread made during Easter with an egg placed in the middle.
Tsoureki dough can be prepared the night before, as the dough will benefit from an overnight ferment, allowing those delicious spice flavours to develop. Once the bread has been braided and shaped the next day, the dough will then have its second rising whilst the oven heats up. The amount of eggs, butter and milk in the recipe will help keep the dough soft and moist, perfect for Sunday when the celebrations begin.
If you would like my version on how to make a Tsoureki you can contact me via Flour-and-Spice and I will email you my pdf version for the recipe. To discover how to make your own you can also join my classes at the Chaffey Community Centre (to book call 8586 5745) or book me and I will show you how to make it in your very own oven! – If you get in touch in time I’m also happy to make them to order, just drop me a line via Flour-and-Spice
HAPPY GREEK EASTER EVERYONE & HAPPY FLOUR POWER!
Tia, your BreadCoach