Want to make Easter extra special? Celebrate like the Greeks do and try this traditional Greek bread recipe at home. Traditionally made on Holy Thursday and served on Easter Sunday, this sweet and light braided loaf called tsoureki comes bright and celebratory with its symbolic red dyed egg on top. It’s made with the two Greek spices mahlepi and masticha, giving tsoureki a distinct and delectable aromatic smell.
In Greek, Easter is called Πάσχα or Páscha which means the eternal passover from death to life and from earth to heaven. One of the most important traditions during the Greek Easter is the making of tsoureki and dyeing of eggs.
Tsoureki symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is reflected with the dough that is braided into shape and takes life as it rises.
Mary Raftopoulos, who shares this family recipe, is of Greek heritage and the lovely mum of one of our store managers. She shares the deeper meaning of tsoureki and the red eggs:
“Red eggs are very symbolic. The red represents the blood of Christ. The shell represents the tomb and the breaking of egg represents the resurrection.”
“On the Saturday night after the resurrection service, the eggs can be eaten. An egg is cracked against an opponent, breaking the opponent’s egg and not your own. The strength of the egg is tested. The last person holding an unbroken egg is blessed with good fortune.”
Not confident about doing this recipe yourself? Learn the basics of making tsoureki and dyeing Easter eggs Greek-style at our workshop. More details here.
- Stand mixer, optional
- Mixing bowls, at least three
- Wooden spoon
- Basting brush
- A tea towel or cling wrap
- Baking sheets
For the yeast
- 35g fresh yeast or 2 sachets dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water
- ¼ cup flour (from weighed quantity)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ tsp mahlepi, optional
- ½ tsp masticha, optional
- 1 ¼ kg flour
- 1 cup warm milk
- 125g unsalted butter and 125g salted butter (250g in total)
For the coloured eggs
- 4 eggs (use brown eggs for a more vivid and warm red)
- 1.5L lukewarm water
- 4 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1 sachet Anatoli red egg dye
To dye the eggs red
- Eggs must be at room temperature.
- Wash the eggs. Boil gently in a pot or saucepan with simmering water for about 20 minutes or until hard boiled.
- Remove from water and cool.
- In the same saucepan, put 1.5L of lukewarm water with wine vinegar and the egg dye.
- Place boiled eggs in the dye solution for three minutes only. The eggs must be in a single layer.
- Remove with slotted spoon and allow to drain on the egg carton, then polish with a soft cloth and olive oil. Note: Thirty eggs can be coloured with one sachet of the dye. It can be purchased from Greek speciality shops or online.
Tip: Edible stickers (included in the Anatoli red egg dye pack) can be added to eggs or patterns can be created by using leaves or flowers onto the boiled eggs to make them fancy. Simply put the undyed egg in a clean pantyhose with a leaf, tie the knots on both ends and place in the dye. Carefully remove the pantyhose to see finished results.
To make the dough
- Mix the yeast, warm water, ¼ cup of flour and 1 tsp sugar together in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place to froth and rise.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together.
- Add the mahlepi and masticha spices (optional).
- Warm milk and butter in a saucepan or your microwave. It must be warm, not hot.
- If using a stand mixer, mix flour, warm butter and milk mixture, eggs and yeast in the bowl. Once mixed, place the dough hook to knead for eight to nine minutes at a low speed. If mixing in a large bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour. Add the eggs, butter and milk mixture and yeast and knead by hand on a lightly dusted surface for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a cling wrap, blanket or towel and place in warm place to rise. Prove for at least two hours or until it doubles in size.
- When the dough has risen, divide it equally into four portions.
- Roll out a section and cut into three. Roll each one into long strands and braid loosely. Tuck the ends under the loaf and make a crown if you want. Repeat with remaining dough to make another loaf.
- Place the loaves on a greased baking tray and leave to rise again in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (or 160C for convection oven).
- When the dough has risen, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar or flaked almonds.
- Carefully push a dyed egg on the centre of each loaf (optional) and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Two special ingredients give tsoureki a very distinctive taste. These are Greek spices mahlepi and masticha. While mahlepi is an aromatic, fruity spice made from the seeds of a Persian cherry tree, masticha comes from the resin of the mastic tree. They can be very rare and hard to find even in Greece as they are only produced for the holidays like Easter, Christmas, and New Year. But add it to the tsoureki and these sweet spices are sure to make your kitchen smell delicious.