I think we can all agree that this Easter will be a first. Locked in our homes for our own protection as the world does battle with something none of us ever thought we’d see. I’ve probably baked more in the last two weeks than in the preceding year! Delicious carb (who cares) treats like Greek Easter bread, aka tsoureki.
Now normally tsoureki is flavoured with mastika and mechlebe, spices we can’t get in SA. But I recently came up with a caraway and dried cranberry version for one of my clients and it was delicious. That got me thinking. Why not make a chocolate tsoureki, packed with chocolate chips? And instead of the usual chicken eggs hardboiled in red food colour, why not use one of my great Easter weaknesses, candy-coated chocolate eggs? So I did and here it is. Get the kids to help you make this tsoureki. It’s good for a few hours’ distraction in these strange times. Stay safe!
All you need is…
3½ cups white bread flour
1 x 10g sachet dry yeast (minus a ¼ teaspoon)
half a heaped cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
finely grated zest of one orange (a microplane works best)
4 Tbs salted butter (at soft room temperature)
½ cup lukewarm water
½ cup milk
two thirds of a cup milk or dark chocolate (or a mix of both), chopped
1 egg, whisked well with two Tbs milk or water
third of a cup milk or dark chocolate, melted
candy-coated chocolate eggs, painted with red food colour
Remove a ¼ teaspoon of yeast from the 10g packet and discard – if you use it all, the recipe contains too much yeast. (Cook’s note: it’s important to use an actual measuring spoon and not to try eyeball it with a normal teaspoon.) Add the remaining yeast in the packet to a large mixing bowl along with the flour, sugar and salt. Stir briefly to combine, then add the orange zest and soft butter and briefly work in. Next add half the milk and water and stir to combine. Add the chopped chocolate and gradually add the remaining water and milk as you mix. Tumble dough onto a very lightly floured surface. The dough will be incredibly wet and sticky at this point and you will be tempted to add more flour. Don’t! Kneed the dough for 7-10 minutes. As you work the gluten in the dough, the texture will change and it will become smooth and much firmer.
Place dough ball in a large bowl lightly painted with vegetable oil, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 60-90 minutes until the dough ball has doubled in size. Knock dough flat, divide into three equal pieces and roll three long sausages. Place them next to each other, squeeze dough sausages together at one end and start plaiting (like you would braid a ponytail). Tuck the ends in neatly underneath. Place loaf on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and allow it to prove for another hour until it has doubled in size.
Once the loaf has doubled in size, brush it with the egg wash and bake until golden for 25-30 minutes in a preheated 190-degree Celsius oven. Insert a thin skewer into the bread. If it comes out clean, your tsoureki is done. Allow too cool slightly, then place dollops of the melted chocolate in the folds of the tsoureki and nest the candied eggs in the melted chocolate to secure. Slice and eat as is or spread over decadent salted butter. This is best on the day it is made. Use the leftovers to make a gorgeous bread and butter pudding!
(If you want to make a caraway and cranberry tsoureki instead: Add a heaped tablespoon of caraway seeds, leave out the chocolate and add two thirds of a cup of roughly chopped dried cranberries instead. Boil 3-5 eggs in water containing loads of red food colour until hard, allow to cool, then push them halfway into the folds of the dough just before the loaf goes into the oven.)