Greek Easter sweet bread, known as Tsoureki, is one of our favorite indulgences all year round. It’s also very guilt inducing. It’s a bread that’s rich in egg, milk, and butter (as if the flour part wasn’t bad enough).
My entire life I just took it for what it was. I never thought that we could make Tsoureki healthier without spoiling its sweet taste, its pull-apart fluffy texture, and its heavenly smell!
All that changed last week when I attended a cooking seminar hosted by a small organic farm/garden called Perivoli in Vari. As my wonderful husband and mother-in-law chased after my three little kids all over the farm, Tatiana, a fellow mommy and an amazing food blogger shared her gem of a recipe for an egg-free, dairy-free and guilt-free Easter sweet bread! You will find the original recipe on Tatiana’s blog- Wonder Bites by Tatu.
Here is my adaptation of this wonderful, not-to-miss Tsoureki that has already become a favorite in our household!
The basic ingredients that make up for the eggs and dairy in this tsoureki are tahini and fresh orange juice making it a great nutritious option for that extra much needed energy kick in the morning. I went one step further in an attempt to make it even healthier and replaced the sugar with honey.
And it’s so simple to make! As I write this, I am baking our third sweet bread in the last three days. With all three kids at home. There’s no mess, and the active time involved is no more than 10 minutes (4 of which were spent squeezing fresh orange juice, just to give you an idea!)
In a large bowl combine juice from two oranges, ¼ cup water, active dry yeast, and 90gr honey. Give it a stir and let it sit for 15-20 minutes until the surface becomes bubbly. It should look something like this.
Add 500gr bread flour, 125gr tahini, a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon cardamom and ½ teaspoon mahleb and mix until everything is incorporated and your dough is neither sticky nor flaky. It should have the texture of play dough. I always use the hook on my Kitchenaid to mix my dough for about 3-4 minutes to get it to that texture.
Cover your dough with a kitchen towel or some plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour or until it roughly doubles in size. I like to stick my dough in the oven when it’s chilly just to make sure the dough rises properly. One way to do this is to preheat your oven to 40C/104F and switch it off before you place your dough inside.
Separate the dough into 3 equal parts.
Roll each part out into a long, thick string. Flatten the string as you would with pizza dough and sprinkle dark chocolate flakes across the center. Roll up the string again. Repeat with all 3 strings.
Here they are, nice and full of chocolate flakes!
Place the strings together, connecting the top end of all 3 and folding it underneath. Like this.
Braid the strings into a braid. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 165C/329F on convection heat.
Bake the sweet bread loosely covered with some parchment paper so that it doesn’t burn for 20-25 minutes.
Glaze the sweet bread with a dab of honey to give it that distinct shiny, glossy look. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. I have to be honest at this point… Our sweet bread was long gone before it could cool on the wire rack!
Lenten Greek Easter Sweet Bread with Chocolate Recipe
200ml fresh orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
50ml water at 40C/100F
500gr bread flour
½ tsp mahlab
½ tsp cardamom
Pinch of salt
Grated dark chocolate
1tsp honey for glazing
In a bowl combine the orange juice, water, honey, and active dry yeast. Give it a stir and let it sit until the surface becomes bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.
Add the tahini, flour, salt, cardamom, and mahleb to the liquid mixture. Using a dough hook on your mixer or by hand, mix the dry and wet ingredients until an elastic dough is formed, about 3-4 minutes.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, place in a warm spot in your house, and let it rest until it doubles in size, about 1-1.5 hours.
Take out the dough, separate it into 3 parts, and roll each part out into a long string. Flatten the string with your fingers and sprinkle the grated chocolate across the center. Reseal the strings.
Place the three dough strings together side by side, connect the tops and fold them underneat the dough. Braid the strings. Cover the dough with some parchment paper and let it rest for another 20 minutes while your oven preheats to 165C/329F on the convection heat setting.
Bake the sweet bread covered with parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until surface looks golden. Remove from oven, glaze with a dab of honey, transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container.