Tsoureki of Velventos (Greek Easter
Makes three 1-pound loaves
To make the sponge:
2 tablespoons dried yeast
1 cup milk
9 cups flour, divided use
1 dash salt
2 cups sugar, divided use
6 large eggs
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons mahlepi spice, optional
Glaze: 1 whole egg, beaten
Preliminaries: Heat oven to 350° F. while divided/braided loaves are
rising (see step below).
Proof the yeast: Dissolve yeast in the milk. Mix in 1/2 cup flour,
dash of salt and 1 tablespoon sugar; cover with plastic wrap and set
aside in a warm place. Yeast mixture will rise slightly.
Prepare the dough: While yeast mixture is rising, combine 6 eggs
with remaining sugar, melted (and cooled) butter, orange juice and
mahlepi (optional) in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and
slowly add the remaining flour, mixing as much as you can with a
wooden spoon and then using your hands to incorporate as much flour
as needed until dough is no longer sticky.
Knead, raise the dough: Working on a lightly floured board, knead
dough until smooth and elastic. This could take up to 15 minutes.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let proof or
rise until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 3 to 4 hours.
Divide and/or braid dough: When doubled, punch down and knead for an
additional 5 minutes. Divide dough in three sections (about 1 pound
each) and place each in greased loaf pans, or divide each section of
dough into three and braid. Cover with a piece of buttered plastic
wrap and set aside to double in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Glaze, bake the loaves: Beat the whole egg to make an egg wash.
Brush the tops of the risen dough. Place on middle rack of pre
heated oven and let bake 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown. To
check for doneness, turn the loaf out of the pan and tap, listening
for hollow sound. You can also insert an instant-read thermometer
into the bottom and watch for a 210° F. internal temperature. Return
to oven for additional five-minute intervals if necessary.
Cook's notes: Recipe requires a lengthy rising,
as well as a second rising (see below). Mahlepi (or mahaleb) is a
Persian spice. The seeds are harvested from a small tree similar to
a flowering cherry. It's typically available at Greek food stores.