Photo credit: G. Drakopoulos - Food Styling: T. Webb
This is a very special recipe. Mahlep sweet breads (Tsoureki) or these types of sweet breads are found all over Europe and the Middle East. Most of them were first made created in the Middle East by people of Jewish descent and are closely related to their religion.
I’m going to share one of these traditional sweet bread recipes with you today. You will notice that it doesn’t contains butter and milk like most of the sweet bread recipes you may have seen or made in the past, since it is a traditional Sephardic Jewish recipe and they are not allowed to consume any dairy products. The dough may not turn out to be as “stringy” as the regular sweet bread dough but it is absolutely wonderful….
- Combine the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar with the water in a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to froth.
- Add the oil and start to mix with a hand whisk.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for each egg to be completely incorporated before adding the next.
- Add the zest, cardamom, sugar and salt and mix well.
- Add the flour in batches and mix until completely combined.
- Turn the dough out on to a generously floured working surface and start to knead with your hands.
- The point is to fold the dough over and over, pulling and turning it to activate the proteins in the flour which make the gluten develop.
- Since we are using olive oil and all-purpose flour, the dough will not be as “stringy” as we might want but it is certainly soft and much healthier.
- Knead until the dough becomes nice and elastic. One way to check if it’s ready is to push on the dough with your finger. If it doesn’t spring back, then it has been kneaded correctly.
- Transfer dough to a bowl lightly brushed with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour, until it doubles in size.
- When ready, turn out the dough and press down on it to release the air. Set aside again for ½ an hour so it can rise again.
- Now you can add the raisins. Knead for 1-2 minutes to distribute.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal parts. Shape them into long strips and make 2 braids.
- Brush 2 sheets of parchment paper with olive oil. Place each braid onto a sheet of the parchment and transfer to baking pan.
- Preheat oven to 190* C (374* F) Fan.
- Brush the dough with some lightly beaten egg yolk and set aside again for 1 hour, so they can rise.
- Brush with some more egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or almond slivers before baking.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden.
- When ready, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.