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Katerina's Kouzina

Tsoureki: Easter bread

In Greece we make special sweet bread for Easter: Tsoureki! Traditionally we bake it on Thursday in the Holy Week.

Two ingredients give Tsoureki a very distinctive taste, masticha and mahlepi. Masticha comes from the island of Chios and is made of the resin of the mastic tree. Mahlepi is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of the cherry tree Prunus mahaleb. Once the Tsoureki is in the oven, these sweet spices will make your kitchen smell delicious!

When the Tsoureki comes out of the oven all golden brown and covered with slivered almonds, it can be hard to safe it for Easter!

It can be fun while making the Tsoureki, to put two red-dyed eggs between the strips of the braid.

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1/4 cup butter (from Goats milk), melted
1 cup of milk
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs
1 tea spoon mahlepi (you can replace it with 1 teaspoon of finely ground anise seed)
1 teaspoon ground masticha (you can replace it with the zest of 1 orange)
1/2 cup of water
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
4 cups of bread flour
1 cup almonds, very finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon salt

For the glaze

1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds


1. Warm the milk (no more than 40 degrees) with the butter, milk, sugar, salt, mahlepi or anise seed and the masticha, then place it in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the yeast with the warm water and mix it with the butter and milk mix.
2. In a large bowl, do the flour and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture and eggs. Work from the center outwards, bringing flour into the well, stirring the mixture until a dough begins to form.
3. Dust a work surface with a little of the remaining flour and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands, about 12 minutes.
4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 3 hours.
5. Divide into 6 balls and roll each into strips. Lay the first 3 side by side, pinching together at one end, and braid. Pinch together at the other end to hold the loaf intact. Repeat making the second.
6. Optional: At this point you can press two red-dyed eggs between the strips of the braid or just leave the braided loaf plain.
7. Place the breads on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered, and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. While the braids are rising, preheat oven to 360F (180C), placing rack on lower shelf of oven.
8. Beat together the egg yolk and remaining milk. Brush over tsoureki loaves and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
9. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Drape them with aluminum foil after 20 minutes, to prevent excess browning. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove and cool on racks.

Recipe Type : Vegetarian

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