I tried many recipes and did many trials to come up with the best tsoureki recipe.
Two things that made a difference in my opinion was the high moisture ratio in the dough and the second thing is the use of honey.
Both of these help in creating a tsoureki that stays moist for days on end if it is wrapped carefully with cling film.
Make sure that you use medium sized eggs and not big! Otherwise the dough will be quite runny and you will not be able to shape the tsoureki
- In a mixer’s bowl, add the water and yeast.
- Whisk by hand and gently add the flour over the mixture, until it is covered.
- Do not stir…. simply set aside for about 30 minutes, until the yeast activates.
- You will know that the yeast has activated because the live yeast bubbles will rise to the top, breaking out of the flour.
- Beat the mahlab, sugar, mastic, cardamom and a pinch of salt in a food processor, until all of the aromatics are finely ground. You can also do this with a mortar and pestle.
- If you want your sweetbread even sweeter, add another 50 g of granulated sugar.
- When the yeast has activated, add the aromatic mixture, orange zest, egg, vanilla, melted butter and honey.
- Begin beating on low speed and gradually increase the mixer’s speed until a nice dough has been created. This should take about 10 minutes.
- When ready, lower speed and add the pieces of butter, which should be at room temperature.
- Beat again until the dough has completely pulled back from the sides of the bowl.
- Brush a bowl with melted butter and place the dough in it.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest and rise for at least 2 hours, at room temperature, until it doubles in size.
- Preheat oven to 180* C (350* F) Fan.
- When the dough is ready, punch down on a clean working surface.
- Roll the dough in to a baguette shape, fold in half and roll again.
- If the dough is more elastic than usual, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour until it thickens.
- Repeat this process 5-8 times. It is a necessary step because it creates even more elastic threads in the dough which is what gives the sweetbread such a nice, chewy texture.
- Cut in to 4 equal sized pieces.
- Shape each piece in to a long strip and place them one next to the other on your working surface, leaving a little space between them.
- To shape it in to a beautiful braid, begin by connecting the tips of all 4 strips.
- Giving each strip a number… 1-2-3-4.
- Fold strip 4 over strip 2…
- Strip 1 over strip 3..
- strip 2 over strip 3.
- Repeat this over and over until you have created a beautiful braid!
- Cut the braid in half to make 2 loaves. You can also leave it whole; just bake it 15 minutes longer.
- Transfer to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
- Brush with some egg whites, sprinkle with almond slivers and set it aside for 20 minutes, so it can rest and rise again.
- When ready, bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden.