This is the traditional recipe for Greek Easter bread (tsoureki), but shaped in a much easier way, sprinkled with mahleb sugar, and stuffed with some chocolate because why not.
Greek Easter is all about dyed red eggs, roast lamb (or goat) and tsoureki 🙂 Tsoureki is a Greek sweet bread made during Easter and its main characteristic is its stringy and fluffy texture and the intoxicating aroma from ground mahleb (or mahlepi), cinnamon, cardamom, lemon or orange zest and maybe some groung mastic.
Mahleb is the seed from a variety of sour cherry tree and has a very distinct aroma that no other spice can imitate. If you can’t find it anywhere, you can substitute it with ⅛ teaspoon of almond extract and ¼ teaspoon of cherry flavor. However, even if you don't use the mahleb, this bread will still be delicious!
The shape of tsoureki
The shapes of Tsoureki can be many, but the most common ones are a braided wreath (like this olive oil Greak Easter Bread) or a plain braid (with 3, 5, or 7 strings). However, if you’re feeling intimidated by this kind of shaping, you can choose to make much easier shapes and why not just a plain loaf.
I wanted to make an easier version of this Greek Easter bread, one that wouldn't require elaborate handling and complex techniques, because sometimes this can prevent someone from trying a recipe, and this is a recipe you should definitely try!
So I just pinched small pieces of dough, rolled them into balls between my hands and transferred them into the cake pan. As you can imagine, I borrowed this technique from monkey bread.
How to stuff your Greek Easter bread with chocolate
Since these days chocolate eggs are practically everywhere, I decided to use them as a filling for this tsoureki. I've also used leftover chocolate eggs to make a chocolate sauce for eggless faux tiramisu in a glass. However, you can use your favorite chocolate bar or even chocolate chips.
Scatter some pieces of chopped chocolate eggs (or chopped dark chocolate) among the balls of dough and sprinkle them with a mix of brown sugar, mahleb and cinnamon, just to make things more interesting. You can also place a piece of chocolate in the center of some dough balls if you're searching for an excuse to use more chocolate 🙂
- Don’t add too much flour! Add most of the flour to the wet ingredients, keeping a small amount on the side and add it only if you feel it is necessary. The dough should be somewhat sticky, but the longer you knead it, the more elastic and pliable it will become.
- Thorough kneading results in a stringy, pliable dough. A stand mixer and a small amount of dough (for the mixer to not overheat) work best.
- Preferably, after the first rise, let the dough rest in the fridge overnight. This will enhance the flavor and the texture of your tsoureki.
- Don’t overbake (but don’t underbake it neither 🙂 ). Tsoureki should retain some moisture for the best stringy texture to shine!
Similar recipes you may like:
Chocolate stuffed Greek Easter bread (Tsoureki gemisto)
For the dough:
- ⅓ cup (80 grams) warm milk
- 2 large eggs beaten (110 grams without the shells) – reserve 1 tablespoon for the eggwash
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) active dry yeast
- 2 ⅔ cups (370 grams) bread flour
- ½ cup (110 grams) white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 teaspoons ground mahleb
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- ⅓ cup (80 grams) butter, room temperature
For the mahleb/sugar mixture:
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground mahleb
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the eggwash:
- the 1 tablespoon reserved beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- pinch of sugar
For the filling
- 15-20 mini chocolate eggs cut in half [or 1 chocolate bar (about 3.5oz/100grams), chopped]
- One loaf pan approximately 10 x 4 inch (25cm x 11cm) greased and lined with baking paper
- Proof the yeast: Transfer the milk, the yeast, one tablespoon of the white sugar and two tablespoons of the flour to the bowl of your electric mixer and stir to combine. Let it rest until foamy (this is a great way to check if the yeast is active).
- Prepare the dough: Add the rest of the flour, the sugar, the butter, the salt, and the spices to the bowl of youe electric mixer. Break the eggs into a small bowl, beat them with a fork, and reserve one tablespoon into a small cup. Add the remaining eggs to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Using the dough attachment, knead the dough until very soft and elastic, about 20 minutes (or more!). The dough may be a little sticky, but that’s ok.
- First Rise: Let the dough rest in a warm place until tripled in volume (a closed oven with only the oven-light on, should do the trick). It may take 2-3 hours depending on the yeast and the rest of the conditions. When the dough has tripled in volume, knead again for 5 minutes. (At this stage you can store the dough in the fridge for up to 2 days).
- Shaping and Second Rise: Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper. Pinch small pieces of dough, form them into balls between your hands, and transfer them into the cake tin in one layer. Sprinkle with some mahleb-sugar mixture and scatter most of the chocolate eggs among the balls of dough. Continue with the rest of the dough, sprinkling with mahlep sugar from time to time.. You can also place a piece of chocolate in the the center of some of the balls. When all the dough is used, press firmly the surface of the tsoureki with your hands to level it. Transfer to a warm place until almost doubled in volume (about 1-2 hours)
- Preheat your oven to 356°F (180°C).
- Bake: Beat the reserved egg with 1 tablespoon milk and a pinch of sugar, and gently brush the surface of the bread. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the tsoureki comes out clean. If you notice the surface getting brown too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil.
- Take the bread out of the oven and let it rest on a rack to cool. Eat!
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