Tsoureki (Traditional Greek Easter Bread)
- Yield: Makes 1 loaf
Photography: Bryan Gardner
- 3/4 ounce fresh yeast
- 1 1/2 pounds bread flour (about 4 1/2 cups), plus more for work surface
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for bowl, plastic wrap, and baking sheet
- 8 large egg yolks, plus 1 large whole egg, lightly beaten
- 5 Red Easter Eggs
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 1 cup room temperature water and yeast; let stand until dissolved. Add flour, sugar, honey, orange zest, salt, vegetable oil, and egg yolks. Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and stiff with a slight sheen, 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead to make sure any loose bits are incorporated. Fold in the following manner: Fold the bottom third of the dough up, the top third down, and the right and left sides over, tapping the dough after each fold to release excess flour, and pressing down to seal. Gently gather the dough and flip it over, seam side down. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap (plastic wrap should be touching the surface of the dough), and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Brush an unrimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch log, and place the logs parallel to one another; pinch the ends together at the top. Weave the three strands into a tight braid, tugging gently as you go. Press the ends together to seal. Place loaf on the prepared sheet. Loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. If baking bread without eggs, brush with egg wash and bake until loaf is deep golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cover with foil if necessary. The bread should reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and should produce a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before serving. If inserting red eggs, bake bread 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully push 5 eggs, larger side down, into the center of the loaf, spacing them evenly down the length. Brush with egg wash and immediately return to oven and proceed with baking directions.