1/2 cup sweet butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs -- beaten
1 tablespoon grated orange rind butter -- melted
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons orange juice
5 1/2 cups sifted flour red-dyed -- hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter over medium heat and scald. Stir until the butter melts, then pour into a mixing bowl. When lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast, and with fingers or a heavy spoon gradually stir in the 1/2 cup sugar until it dissolves. T
hen add the salt, eggs 3 tablespoons of the orange juice, and the orange rind, stirring continuously, and gradually add half the flour until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue adding flour gradually by hand; the dough will be sticky, but should not be stiff.
Flour your fingers lightly and knead for 15 minutes. Place the dough in a large buttered bowl, brush the dough with melted butter, cover, and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in bulk (approximately 2 to 3 hours).
Punch the dough down and divide into 2 parts. Divide each half into 3 parts and roll each into a long rope about 10" x 2". Braid the three ropes together; pinch to seal the ends if leaving long, or join together to form a long round loaf. Repeat with the other half of the dough to make a second tsoureki.
Place in large baking pans or on a cookie sheet, cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk (approx. 1 1/2 hours).
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing the remaining orange juice, remaining sugar, and the almonds in a small bowl.
Bake the tsourekia in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and with a pastry brush glaze the tops and sides of loaves. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the color is a rich and shiny chestnut.
Note: If using the Easter eggs, tuck them into the center when you shape the loaves, leave until loaves have doubled and bake them with the loaf. After baking, though lovely, the eggs will be inedible. Also in some provinces, the tsoureki is formed with a large braid and a smaller one over it, making a much larger loaf requiring a longer baking time.
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