Easter Tsoureki or the day I discovered malhep and mastic

April 17th, 2014 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

After posting that photo of braided bread on Instagram, shot for Eat&Travel magazine video, Michael, culinary genius behind Concept Creations group of restaurants, notably from their newest venture, Souvla restaurant, sent me a message to discuss about a special bread… having seen a lot of breads around the world, I wasn’t expecting much… very little I knew when he introduced me to the classic braided Greek bread Tsoureki, especially to the core flavors.

The first special ingredient of the Tsoureki is Mahlep, a soft nut-like kernel from the inside of a specific cherry pit that confer a delicate cherry flavor in baking. Let’s define this as a woody almond flavor with a hint of cherry fruitiness; spectacular for bread, cookies, ice cream and I would definitely see it working superbly with chocolate. It gives the Tsoureki a very round nut and wood flavor.

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The baked Tsoureki with a cooked red color egg that has religious meaning for Easter

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malhep, mastic and orange

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Rolled malhep

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Mastic and sugar ready to be grounded

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grounded mastic and sugar, ready to be added to the dough

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shaped and egg washed

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proofed, second egg washing and sliced almonds

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fresh orange zest

Bakers around the world bake a lot of braids, they come is dozens of different name and everyone, of course, claims it comes form their own region! Challah, Khale, Zopf, Tresse, Barkis, Bergis, Birkata, Tsoureki, Kalacs, Chalka, Colaci, Kitke and I’m sure there are even more out there!

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a nice extensible dough, already so flavorful!

The second special ingredient is nothing else than the ancestor of chewing gum, mastic; a gum which comes from the mastic trees growing  on the island of Chios (the fifth largest Greek Islands). Now if you are a pastry professional (or a chef actually!), you MUST taste and experiment with mastic! It has a flavor out of this world. You can picture it as little balls of concentrated pine tree where just a little piece can flavor massive amount of recipes. Although powerful, when dosed to the right amount, it becomes a really subtle aroma matching any nuts, chocolate or fruits, especially citrus. As a matter of fact the recipe calls for the zest of an orange and sliced almond on top of the braid.

The only fair warning you need is to use mastic in very moderate quantity as it diffuses its aroma unlike any other ingredient!

Ingredients

  • 660 gm T65 wheat flour
  • 280 ml milk
  • 15 gm dried yeast
  • 60 gm white sugar
  • 10 gm salt
  • 1 pc fresh egg
  • 2 pcs egg yolks
  • 120 gm butter
  • 4 gm ground Malhep
  • 1 small teaspoon of ground mastica
  • The zest of one orange

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients into a nice and stretchable dough.
  2. Scale the dough into equal weight pieces (2 or 3 depending on how many thread your braid will be).
  3. Do the braid and egg wash once.
  4. Place the braid on a baking tray and allow proofing until it doubles in size.
  5. Egg wash once more, add the eggs now if you add them on the bread, add sliced almonds.
  6. Bake at 185C for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy and happy Easter everyone! :-)

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