Showing posts with label Greek orthodox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek orthodox. Show all posts

Tsourekia-Greek Easter Bread


Happy Greek Easter - Kalo Pascha!

Easter in Greece is beautiful. There have been a few times that I was able to go back and celebrate Easter in Greece besides the times when I was growing up. The flowers are blooming, the weather is warm, and the trees have leaves on, unlike here in the the Midwest, in the middle of April. Greek Easter is one of the biggest holidays in Greece besides Christmas. The preparations start early, as soon as Lent begins. Homes are cleaned, they might even get a fresh coat of paint, the winter rugs are removed and replaced with spring/summer area rugs. Homes are decorated beautifully, not with Easter eggs and wreaths as they do here, but with embroidered doilies that depict spring and flowers.

During the beginning of the Greek Holy week the final touches of cleaning are put to the homes, and then the baking begins. We make koulourakia-Koulourkakia Portokaliou-Greek Easter Cookies to have and offer to visitors with coffee. Then there is the traditional Greek Easter bread. That can be made ahead of time as it takes a full day to make it (of course it all depends how many loaves you want to make). Or you can start making it on Holly Thursday so that you will be able to place a hard boiled red dyed egg on the bread before baking it.

Holly Thursday is the day that we color our eggs. The Greek traditional way of coloring eggs is with a dark red dye that it is quite difficult to find here. You will have to either find it at a Greek market that sells it or have someone from Greece to mail it to you. A few times that I went back to Greece I was able to purchase some and bring it back with me. But if you travel to Greece after Easter it will be very difficult to find it since it is sold out for Easter.

Over the years I tried different food dyes to color my eggs. I finally settled for the liquid red food coloring - the ones that are about 1fl oz each - and use about 4 of those bottles along with 5 cups of lukewarm water mixed with 1/2 cup of vinegar. I lay about 20 eggs inside a large dutch oven and pour the colored water over the eggs. I let them boil for about 10 minutes and remove the pot from the heat. Once they are a bit cool I remove them with a spatula and rub them with olive oil for shine.

The Greek Easter bread is sweet and delicious. This recipe is a combination of my mother's recipe with my own touches by adding cardamon, crushed anise seeds, vanilla, orange and lemon zest. This bread makes excellent toast spread with butter or jam, and even makes excellent french toast. But it tastes so good alone that there is not enough left for toast or even french toast. Enjoy! Happy Greek Easter or as we say in Greek Kalo Pascha.

Greek Easter Bread - Tsourekia (Tsoo-re-kia)

Calories C- 1165 for a 12 oz loaf; 95 calories for 1oz slice

Ingredients
Makes 8-12oz loaves

8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup flour for kneading
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups skim milk
3 packages dry yeast
1 2/3 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. Cardamon
1 tsp. crushed anise seeds
1 heaping tbsp. of orange zest (zest of one large orange)
1 heaping tbsp. of lemon zest (zest of one large lemon, like a Meijer lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs

Egg wash
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. milk
½ cup sliced raw almonds

Directions

Sift the 8 cups flour with the salt and set aside. Grate the lemon and orange zest and set aside. In a mortar and pestle crush the anise seeds and set aside.

Warm the 1.5 cups skim milk in the microwave (do not boil it; just bring it to lukewarm temperature-about a minute in the microwave). In a large bowl, combine the 3 packages of dry yeast with the lukewarm milk, 1/2 cup of the flour/salt mixture and 1 tbsp. of sugar.  Mix well. Cover tightly with saran wrap and a thick towel and let it rise for about 1/2 hour in a warm place.

In the meantime, melt the butter in the microwave. In another bowl break the eggs and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter with the sugar, the orange, lemon zest, the cardamon, the crushed anise seeds and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well together. You can use a handheld mixer for this. Add the yeast mixture that has already risen and blend well together. Gradually add the flour as you mix. The mixture will begin to thicken. From the extra 1 cup of flour, flour a clean surface with a little bit of the flour and pour the dough on it. Start kneading adding the extra flour gradually, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands or the surface. Place the well-kneaded dough in a large bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap, and towels and place it in a warm place to rise for about 2-3 hours until double the size. The warmer the place the quicker the dough will rise.

When the dough has risen, cut it in 4 pieces.  Take one quarter of the dough while you keep the rest of the dough covered and cut it in half.  Take the half dough and cut it in 3 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece into a long strip and braid it together.  Place it in a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Continue with the rest of the dough until all dough is done. Place the braids about 4-5" apart (they will rise) and cover them tightly with saran wrap and towels. Let them rise for a couple of hours until about double the size. (They will also rise in the oven while baking).

When they are ready for the oven, beat the 2 egg yolks with the 3 tbsp. milk. Brush the braids with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sliced raw almonds. If desired place a hard boiled colored (preferably red) on the one end of the braid.

Bake at 350° F. for about 40 min until browned.  Remove from the oven and let them cool before cutting. Place them in plastic bags and refrigerate. They can also be frozen. They will last up to 6 months.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (346.5g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1162
Calories from Fat 422
Total Fat 46.9g
Saturated Fat 26.1g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 258mg
Sodium 492mg
Potassium 382mg
Total Carbohydrates 165.0g
Dietary Fiber 5.3g
Sugars 55.0g
Protein 23.1g


The dough

The braids before they go in the oven

The final product.  Enjoy!





Lentil Soup

While I was growing up in Greece, my mother prepared meatless dishes during the week and made dishes with chicken, pork or beef tenderloin on a Sunday. Sunday was a special meal. The whole family looked forward to it. We all gathered around the table, to enjoy any type of meat with some kind of vegetable or starch, that my mother had prepared (like the roasted chicken with potatoes - Roasted Chicken with Potatoes in the oven) one of my first posts. Living in the US, I’m trying to incorporate that same principle that my mother had, by trying to cook meatless dishes during the week, and enjoying meat on a Sunday. Sometimes I accomplish that, but other times it’s quite difficult.

Lentil soup is a common dish to prepare during Lent. This year, Greek Easter falls on May 5th thus our Lent period is still on. It began on March 18th and it will last till our Easter Sunday which is seven weeks from March 18th. Our Easter follows the Julian calendar and should not coincide with Easter of other faiths. During Lent, strict food restrictions apply. According to our Greek Orthodox customs, meat, fish or poultry is forbidden to eat (except crustaceans) even dairy and olive oil. The only two days that we are allowed to eat fish is March 25th (Fried Cod in Beer Batter) when we celebrate our Greek Independence Day and the Annunciation of Virgin Mary (or Evangelismos of Theotokos - pronounced: E-van-geh-lee-zmos of Thee-ott-oh-kos), and on Pam Sunday.

Living away from the Mother country is always difficult to establish these rules. As hard as I try, there are days that I will have to skip the tradition and end up cooking a dish with meat. Lentil soup is easy and fast to make, and since my family likes it, I cook it often during Lent.

Enjoy!!!

Makes 8 servings (approximately 15 oz each or 2 cups per serving)

½ cup olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 ¼ cup sliced carrots
1 lbs lentils (16 oz)
8 cups water
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 bay leaves

Wash the lentils and remove and foreign objects, like tiny rocks that might have escaped into the package. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, over high heat, pour the ½ cup olive oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic. Sauté till transparent. Add the sliced carrots and the lentils. Add the tomato sauce, the diced tomatoes,salt, cumin, chopped parsley, bay leaves and the 8 cups of water. Let it come to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for one hour. Remove from heat. Before serving remove the bay leaves.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
15.613 oz (442.6g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 344
Calories from fat 122
Total Fat 13.5g
Saturated Fat 1.9g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 596mg
Total Carbohydrates 42.1g
Dietary Fiber 19.4g
Sugars 6.1g
Protein 16.2g