Tsoureki (Greek τσουρέκι), çörek (Turkish), panarët (Arbërisht), choreg (Armenian չորեկ), or çörək (Azerbaijani). are a sweet bread in Albania, Bosnia, Azerbaijani, Greek, Cypriot, Bulgarian cuisine, Arbëresh cuisine, Turkish, and Armenian cuisine. It is formed of braided strands of dough. Çörək is also the Azerbaijani name for bread. The ethymology of the word directs us to the Turkish word çevre-k (çevirmek) for to round, rounded et cetera.
Rich brioche-like breads (often braided) are known by various different Greek names that represent three major holidays for Greeks: Easter, Christmas and New Year's. There are many local varieties of these festive breads, based around the use of milk (instead of water) for kneading the flour, eggs, butter, yeast, and a flavoring agent which is usually either mahleb or Chian mastic. A good tsoureki should be soft, moist and fluffy, yet stringy and chewy. If anything, it should be slightly underbaked rather than overbaked.
Tsoureki / Lambropsomo/ Lambrokoulouras: Easter Bread
Τσουρέκι / λαμπρόψωμο: symbolizing the resurrection of Christ. In ecclesiastical Greek, Easter Sunday is also called Λαμπρή ("Bright") Sunday, thus it is the bread served after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Greek word Lambropsomo is a combination of two words: lambro (Greek: λαμπρό) which means "bright light"; and psomo (Greek: -ψωμο from ψωμί) which means bread: lambropsomo translates to shining-bread or the epiphany-bread, representing the light given to Christians by Christ's resurrection and the passing over from what we are to what Risen Lord wants us to be: "partakers of divine nature". Another name for this is "Λαμπροκουλούρας" Lamprokoulouras, which means the same. This braided bread can be shaped either into a circle or into two large braids and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is adorned with beautiful red Easter eggs and sometimes red rosebuds for decorations. The Easter eggs are dyed deep red to represent the blood of Christ, the eggs also represent new life and springtime. It is traditionally eaten during the Resurrection Meal. After Orthodox Christians' fast, which lasts 40 days to represent Jesus' time in the wilderness and the solar year (amongst other things lasting a long time), the Easter feast has to begin slowly, with a light meal after the midnight Divine Liturgy on Saturday night. The fast is generally broken with magiritsa, an offal-based soup flavored with avgolemono sauce; tsoureki, the fluffy, egg-laden Easter bread, salad and a bowl of red dyed eggs. Greeks have a custom when it comes to the eggs: they crack them one-to-one. Whosever egg remains intact, supposedly has good luck in the ensuing year.
This bread recipe was traditionally prepared with an essence drawn from the seeds of Mediterranean wild cherries, called makhlepi, (Greek: μαχλέπι), which makes the kitchen smell delicious. The kernels of the makhlepi cherry spice are loved for specialties like tsoureki, but some people at times may elect to prepare this beautiful bread without the seed essence. Besides mahaleb kernels, the bread can be flavoured with mastic, the resin from Pistacia lentiscus, var. chia which is used in Greek cuisine. In more recent years, vanilla-scented tsoureki has also become quite popular. Sometime tsoureki is used as gifts for special occasion, for instance, it can be given as an Easter gift from children to their godparents.
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There may be as many recipes for tsoureki as there are cooks.
This delicious recipe belongs to my friend Maria B.!!
1/2 cup of hot Milk
2 cubes fresh yeast
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
2 cups of Sugar
1 Tbsp of Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 Orange Peel, grated
0.5 tsp of Mahlepi powder
0.5 tsp of Mastic powder
0.5 tsp sea salt
1 Kilo of Flour
1 egg yolk
Soften yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. While the yeast is softening, mix all ingredients together, except for flour and yeast. Then add a little bit of yeast, then a little bit of flour, repeat until you make dough. Cover and let rise for 4 hours. Knead dough once more until smooth, then braid. Place on baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 2 hours. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 350F until golden brown. Makes 4 loaves.