Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tsoureki...Greek Easter Bread with Cardamom Spice and Orange Peel

Our Hand-Blown and Dyed Easter Eggs

What is there not to like about Easter time of year.  Everything around us is about hope, inspiration, rebirth, beauty, and celebration.  

Countless Easter breads are being showcased all over the food blogging community.  How wonderful to see overlapping breads from Italy to Ireland and from Poland to Russia.  

Nothing is more fitting than breaking a 'fast' than the baking and sharing of delicious varieties of Easter bread all over the world.  

In Greece, they have an Easter bread called "Tsoureki".  An eager collector and lover all stories related to food, I happily devoured this Grecian bread tradition and delighted in this country's colorful tale.

Not too many bread recipes call for baking a boiled egg right into the dough.  Tsoureki bread tucks red dyed eggs, boiled in the shell and pocketed right into the dough.  In Greece, red is symbolic of Christ's blood.   Several of these 'wreaths' are baked at one time and given to friends and family as Easter gifts.

What intrigued me about this Tsoureki recipe was the addition of flavorful spices in the dough.  The most popular flavor in Greece for Tsoureki is 'mahlepi'.  This spice is ground from the seeds of the European 'Cherry Prunus mahaleb'.

The spice is said to be fragrant with a taste like bitter almonds.  It is used to give character to sweet breads.  The other spice that is used as a replacement is Cardamom.  I did have this spice on hand so I used it as the main spice.

In Greek kitchens, the smell of not only the bread of also of the fragrance from either the mahlepi spice or cardamom is considered symbolic and nostalgic of Easter time in households across the country.

Our Hand-Blown and Dyed Easter Eggs

The loaf is plaited into a wreath shape.  This circular shape is beautiful to display but also symbolizes the renewal and continuation of life.   Families also enjoy being able to pull apart the bread into soft flavorful chunks as they 'break' their fast.

This Tsoureki bread was a joy to make.  The spices along with the grated orange peel are full of warm aromas.  Having fun with dyed eggs is always a favorite activity.  Tucking them into the pouches of the soft silky dough creates such a light-hearted and gay appearance.

Spending holidays in foreign countries is always a wonderful and thrilling way to travel and soak up the customs of diverse parts of the world.

We've had the occasion to enjoy Easter in England as well as Italy and we relished such opportunities to share traditions, especially those related to food.

This bread would pair wonderfully after a succulent herb spiced lamb or a wonderfully sweet roasted ham.  Children would enjoy rolling out the 'plaits' of dough, lapping them one over the other, dyeing Easter eggs, nestling them into the soft doughy wreath and then breathing in the sweet spiced bread that pours out of the oven.

Extra dough could be kept on hand to make tiny little wreaths with an egg in the middle for the little ones to take home as an Easter treat.

Perusing all of the Easter breads being showcased across the beautiful web landscape during this spring holiday season are one of those joyful times that bring our blogging community together.  

By baking bread together all over the world, each spiced with  unique flavors, characters, traditions, and celebrations, we should carry away one very significant message.

We are all joined together, we are all holding on to each other in some symbolic way, like this wreath.  We all want to enjoy delicious food, pass on wonderful traditions, share good and worthy values, and celebrate the beauty of life.

Have a wonderful time with your families, whatever beautiful pocket of this planet you call home.  

If you are celebrating the renewal of life, as this Spring season showcases its beauty, with budding flowers, multiplying bunnies, hatching eggs, and sprouting of roots everywhere, have a wonderful and happy celebration!

Oh!  Those Texas Skies!

Tsoureki ~ Greek Easter Bread spiced with Cardamom and Orange Peel
(recipe by Alice Storey)

Cooking Time Prep time 1 hr, cook 35 mins (plus proving, cooling) 

500 gm (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
21 gm (3 packets)dried yeast
125 ml (½ cup) milk
2 eggs lightly beaten, plus extra for brushing
50 gm (1/4 c) caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 2 oranges
2 tsp mahlepi (or cardamom)
75 g (a stick is 110g) softened butter, coarsely chopped, plus extra to serve
3 Red Easter eggs

Combine flour, yeast and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, form a well in the centre, set aside.

Add milk, eggs, sugar, orange rind, mahlepi and 100ml (1/3 c) lukewarm water and mix until a soft dough forms (5-7 minutes). 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 and set aside until doubled in size (40 minutes-1 hour).

Meanwhile, for red Easter eggs, follow instructions on packet to cook and dye eggs then set aside to cool completely.

Knock back dough and divide into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 45cm-long cylinder, plait pieces together, then bring ends together to form a wreath and squeeze to join. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and set aside to prove slightly (20 minutes).

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Brush wreath with eggwash, gently push red Easter eggs (unpeeled) into wreath and bake until wreath is golden and cooked through (25-30 minutes). Cool on a wire rack, serve with butter. Greek Easter bread is best eaten the day it’s made.

Note Mahlepi is available from Greek delicatessens. You can substitute a flavouring such as mastic or cardamom. Red egg dye is available (usually around Easter time) from Greek and Italian delicatessens. Instructions and the quantity required vary from brand to brand.

(This recipe is from the April 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.)


  1. Your eggs are beautiful. What method do you use to dye them?

  2. Gorgeous, Sarah! I've always thought those breads were just lovely... your eggs are marvelous!

  3. Beautiful, Sarah - especially the eggs.
    I have recently started working with mahleb and it lends such a lovely essence to baked goods - it pairs beautifully with rose water.

  4. Oh Marilyn thank you. The technique is from the Martha Stewart Catalog. The April 2003 edition. I've done this technique before and they come out different each time. First you dye eggs in a light color. Then, you dye them again in a color with drops of olive oil it it. The olive oil makes the streaks (or marbled effect)

  5. Gorgeous photos. I like how it's so many of them-))) Endless joy! Thank you.

  6. The eggs are fantastic, I thought they were made of stone...what kind of eggs are they, I love all the shapes and sizes!

  7. Sue, some of the eggs are 'blown eggs' and some are just boiled. I got the idea for this 'look' from the Martha Stewart April 2003 Catalog. They don't look like hers...hers are gorgeous...but they do come out pretty.

  8. Beautiful!
    I love your photos.
    Happy Easter.

  9. Your beautiful photos blow me away :) Here in Malta they make a Apostle's Bread at this time of year. It comes in the shape of a circle and will have orange peel and spices in it and instead of eggs, they place almonds on the surface. It's not plaited though. I suppose these types of breads are common all over the Mediterranean and beyond.

  10. gorgeous photos as always .. beautiful explanation and story .. very informative! The bread looks stunning and with those pretty colorful egg .. double gorgeous!

  11. What an impressive bread, and those hand dyed eggs are just gorgeous!

  12. Sarah, Such a beautiful Easter bread…I make an Italian Easter bread every year however, this one makes me want to make a change for next year! Your eggs are gorgeous! And your photos are incredible as usual!! Happy Easter!

  13. Your colorful easter eggs and how you baked them together in your bread - is amazing!! A piece of work..all on its own! Have a happy holiday Sarah!!!

  14. this is stunning lovely post and happy Easter

  15. What a unique bread! I love cardamom, and I bet the bread smells amazing while baking in the oven. Happy Easter, Sarah!

  16. What a gorgeous post!
    I'm sending it on to my Greek friends

    Happy Easter to you!

  17. you are so wonderful at baking bread :) love the thoughtfulness of this post, and the spices.

  18. Sarah, your Greek Easter bread is gorgeous. I am half Greek and always remember a wonderful Greek Easter party I attended when I was seven. I loved the Tsoureki and the tradtion of trying to crack each others eggs.
    I hope your Easter was delightful. I know that I had my share of deviled eggs yesterday;)

  19. Dear Sarah - This is just one GORGEOUS bread. I have seen a similar one in Italian homes as well. You've made it so well and the cardamom - you know how much I love cardamom. Not to mention your stunning Easter hand blown eggs. You do it all so well!!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  20. Sarah, thanks for sharing this, its absolutely beautiful! xxx

  21. I used to make a Portugese Easter bread with colored eggs braided inside. This very much reminds me of the recipe, but mine didn't have cardamom. Can't wait to try this.

  22. Wow! Your photos are beautiful. Tsoureki is something that I must try. Thanks for the post.

  23. I've always wanted to make tsoureki but still haven't gotten to it. This year, I baked a different type of bread for Easter. Yours looks delicious, and your eggs are gorgeous. The cardamom and orange zest in the bread sound lovely!

  24. I'm sure the bread tasted great, but it's truly beautiful just to look at! Gorgeous photography once again!

  25. Gorgeous pictures, the idea of plaiting bread into a wreath sounds like a challenge. Is it hard?

  26. This is so beautiful Sarah. Would you believe I never heard of Easter bread until this year? It's not something I grew up with and had never seen before! Learn something new everyday. You've captured it so beautifully. I love the spring photos!

  27. Oh, my Goodness, this is so beautiful! I have to add you to my sidebar to keep up with you...those eggs are just amazing!!
    So nice to "meet" you...
    Anne ♥♥

  28. We have Easter breads in Turkey as well with eggs placed on it. The bread is normally similar to Challah. It occurred to me the other day that although 99% is Muslim in Turkey, Easter bread has become such a tradition with the Christian minority, we all absorbed the customs without caring too much about the origin. This feeling/approach is something we should preserve and pass on so that we have less "my side, their side" issues in the world. Anyway, bottomline, your bread is looking fabulous :) And we all should bake bread and share it together more often :)


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