get ready for some serious food porn
Tsoureki, our sweet Easter bread is by far the most popular treat during Easter. Traditionally, we use mahlep and mastic in the dough as flavourings. But then here comes the chocolate and who can resist chocolate? Not me, for one. I tried out two versions of chocolate tsoureki, a fancy with chocolate cinnamon filling braided into an infinity knot and a chocolate in disguise tsoureki, that looks plain and normal but hides a ready-made praline filling. They are both ace!
Head straight to the recipe.
So, chocolate tsoureki is not the traditional version of this sweet bread. However, it is very popular at Greek bakeries and it’s been quite a few years that it has caught on, for good reason. It’s delicious. My inspiration for this tsoureki came from the chocolate cinnamon bread of wonderful Eva Kosmas Flores. She made an amazing bread, a true show stopper, I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Her filling has cinnamon and chocolate, a match made in heaven. When it comes to tsoureki braiding, it is a little bit like tetris for me, I simply cannot stop playing with the dough. Most likely it’s going to be the same for you once you start on it.
Eva’s two strand braiding is actually very simple. You interlace two strands to make an infinity knot. The beauty of this design is that each strand is cut in two, so that you can see the filling, creating a zebra like pattern. To achieve this you roll open the dough and spread a thin layer of filling exactly the same way you would with cinnamon buns. Only that you won’t cut it in small rounds, but you will cut across the strand to reveal the filling. The chocolate cinnamon filling is made in a similar manner as the cinnamon buns, with butter, cinnamon and of course chocolate.
Eva took it a step further creating this knot. She used 3 strands, each one cut halfway and then she interlaced the triplets to give her bread this gorgeous look. She also stretched them to get the most of their length, a good 85 cm long. I went for a slightly simpler, shorter strand version. I tried it out on just one strand cut halfway, no bigger than 50 cm. The result is equally beautiful.
As for experiment number two, it is the busy person’s version. You get a dollop of your favourite praline, I used Greek merenda (there is a huge tub lying around the house constantly), you spread it and roll. The advantage is that you can skip one step, you don’t need to wait for the filled dough to sit in the fridge before braiding. The cut across version will turn out very messy if you don’t rest the dough in a cool place before cutting (do not try it).
My tsoureki dough, is the old time classic grand-ma recipe that never fails.
- 120 ml lukewarm water
- 50 gr fresh yeast (or 17 gr dried yeast)
- 1 kg flour, sieved, high protein – look for at least 14%
- 250 gr butter, unsalted plus some extra for plaiting
- 250 gr sugar
- 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks
- 200 ml condensed milk
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp mahlepi seeds
- 1 tsp mastic powder or 5 mastic crystals
- 1 orange for its zest
For the Chocolate Cinnamon Filling (for 3 strands)
- 110 gr bittersweet chocolate (70%)
- 85 gr butter
- 110 gr light brown sugar
- 30 gr flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 egg white, whisked slightly
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt
- two generous spoonfuls of your praline spread of choice
What to do:
- Boil the mahlepi seeds in approximately 200ml of water and remove from the heat when reduced to half. Strain and keep the flavoured water.
- Dilute the yeast in 100 ml lukewarm water and 1 tsp of sugar. Add approximately 100 gr of flour and mix well.
- Cover and set aside in a warm place to activate the yeast. This should be done within 20 minutes.
- Beat the eggs and egg yolks with ½ tsp of salt using a whisk, then set aside.
- Melt the butter and stir in the sugar. Mix until the sugar has dissolved completely
- Warm up the milk and add to the butter and sugar mix you just prepared
- Let the mixture cool down and then add the eggs
- Stir in the mahlab flavouring, orange zest and mastic powder
- Take half of the sieved flour and start adding it gradually to the mixture.
- Once you have mixed in half the flour, add the activated yeast you prepared earlier.
- Now gradually fold in the rest of the flour, gently without mixing
- Keep on adding flour until you use it all up. Your dough will be ready when it no longer sticks to the sides of your mixing bowl
- Cover your dough and set it aside in a warm place. It should rise, roughly doubling in volume within two hours.
- Use a double boiler (bain-marie) to melt butter and chocolate.
- Once the mixture is fully melted, remove from the hob and integrate the rest of the ingredients, keeping the egg for the end.
- Roll a piece of dough, approximately 90 gr, into a long and narrow sheet. (it’s a very elastic dough)
- Spread a thin, even layer of cinnamon-chocolate filling.
- Roll the long side up and rest the strands in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Cut halfways and proceed with the two strand braiding
- Alternatively, just braid 3 strands.
- Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes.
There is a little video that might help get your head around the 2 strand braiding, it is much simpler than it looks. You need to cross the strands, grab the upper left and second to the right and cross over the middle strand. Then you cross the upper right and second to your left over the middle strand. Repeat until you run out of dough. It looks likes this:
This is what your tsoureki bread will look like without the chocolate filling.
Easter for most of you has come and gone, and guess what, this year Orthodox Easter is a week later than Catholic Easter. So we are looking forward to the celebrations. If you are celebrating Greek Easter, check out the essential recipes here.
Here is a tiny tsoureki for the Easter bunny. Which chocolate tsoureki will you be making? Oh, and do let me know how your braiding went!
From Athens with love,