Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread / CM

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TSOUREKI - GREEK EASTER BREAD
Tsoureki is a traditional Greek Bread served at the Easter meal flavored with overtones of orange and anise. It's shaped into a twisted wreath or a braid and has red colored hard boiled eggs tucked into pockets formed between the twists.

Although the traditional color for the eggs is red, pastel hues of blue, yellow, light pink and lime green can help welcome the Easter bunny just as well!

1 pkg. yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (110F)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest (or a few drops of pure orange oil)
1 tbsp. anisette liquor
3 tiny drops anise oil
1 tsp. salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 egg yolk (reserve the white for egg wash for top)
hard boiled eggs dyed red (1 for each person)

For the milk, use reconstituted non-fat dry milk or scalded fresh milk.

To dye the hard boiled eggs, I add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to the liquid from a can of sliced beets in a small stainless steel pan. Add the eggs with enough water to cover and boil for 1 or 2 minutes, cover and let stand for 15 minutes, then cool. The eggs may also be dyed red using food colorings if you prefer a brighter color.

To prepare the dough, dissolve the yeast and set aside for 5 minutes. Heat the milk to scald, melt the butter add the honey and cool for about 15 minutes before adding to the yeast (about 100F).

In a stand mixer, add 2 cups flour and remaining ingredients (except flour) and beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining flour a small amount at a time, until the dough forms a ball and begins to leave the side of the bowl.

With the dough hook attachment, knead for 6-8 minutes. Remove to a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Put into an oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil on all sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until nearly doubled. Punch down, divide dough into two ropes; twist the two together, then form a ring or a wreath and pinch the ends together; tuck them under to hide. Let rise, again for about 30-40 minutes.

Tuck a colored egg at even intervals around the wreath by spreading a rope twist to fit around the egg. Cover and let rise another 20-30 minutes or so.

15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375F.

To make an egg wash, beat the saved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it over the top. (Don't allow the egg to pool in the valleys and leave the boiled eggs without brushing.) Sprinkle sesame seeds over the bread.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reads 190F on an instant-read thermometer. Cool on a wire rack.

Happy Easter!

Submitted by: CM
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