The Easter season has come and gone for another year so today I bring you one of the items I served at our table. Tsoureki is a very popular sweet bread in Greece similar in texture to a French brioche. It is traditionally served at Pascha (Easter) but is also commonly consumed at other holidays or as a daily accompaniment to coffee/tea.
Most Greeks will tell you that making your own tsoureki is a daunting task to perfect, which is why many simply purchase it from local Greek bakeries verses making it homemade. I myself have purchased the bread for many years since I always place more focus on preparing other traditional offerings. However this year I decided to take up the task of making tsoureki homemade for Easter and the process honestly did not live up to the horror portrayed.
The perfect Tsoureki is a buttery soft yet flaky dough flavored with the distinct aromatic spices ground masticha (mastic) and ground mahlepi. Masticha or Mastic is a tree resin found on the Greek island of Chios. Mahlepi or mahleb is a spice derived from ground cherry seeds. These two spices are what give tsoureki its distinct taste and alluring sweet aroma. Without them the bread becomes no different from a French brioche.
If you are a regular follower of mine you’re probably wondering what my take on this traditional bread will be. Although I love tsoureki in its traditional loaf form I always like to make a fresh twist to established recipes as my own signature of sorts. With tsoureki, I sought to streamline the traditional braided design into a more portable portion. Tsoureki is traditionally braided into a long loaf or a crown shape. For my recipe, I portion out the dough into equal sized rolls and braid them the traditional way. I then place each braided roll into a muffin tin. This strategy makes it easy to provide the perfect amount of tsoureki for the expected amount of guests for holidays and is a far less messy alternative for kids, especially since they do not have patience to wait for a slice to be cut. If you want to try tsoureki and share it with family and friends, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try. You will be delightfully surprised at how great of a roll this is!
- 1 pkg. Dry Yeast
- 1/3 cup Warm Milk (100° to 110°)
- 15.75 oz. (about 3 ½ cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Ground Mahlepi (may also be labeled mahlab/mahleb)
- ½ tsp. Ground Masticha (may also be labeled mastic)
- ½ tsp. Salt
- 4 Large Eggs; lightly beaten
- 6 ½ tbsp. Unsalted Butter; softened & cut into large cubes
- 1 tbsp. Water
- 1 Large Egg White
- Sliced Almonds; optional
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine yeast and warm milk. Dissolve yeast in milk and let stand for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, mahlepi, masticha, salt, and eggs. Add flour mixture to the milk mixture. Set mixer to low-speed and beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula as needed. Continue to beat dough on low speed for 5 minutes or until dough is soft and elastic and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Set mixer to medium speed and add half of butter to the dough until just incorporated. Add remaining butter cubes to dough and beat until incorporated. Continue to beat dough at medium speed for 4 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
- Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough into the bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Once risen, gently press two fingers into the dough. If indentation remains the dough has risen enough to proceed. If indentation does not remain allow more time to rise. Once indentation remains, punch dough down then form into a ball. Return dough to bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
- Uncover dough and let stand 90 minutes or until dough is at room temperature. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent it from drying out), cut dough into 6 equal pieces.
- Working with one piece at a time, break into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long log. Pinch together the 3 logs at the top and braid down like you would hair. Pinch the end of the braid and pull braid into a ball formation, tucking the end of the braid underneath the ball to secure. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions to make 24 rolls total. Place rolls into cups of a muffin tin coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Combine water and egg white; stir with a whisk. Gently brush rolls with egg mixture. If using almonds, gently press 3-4 onto the top of each roll. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve.
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017
Fall has officially arrived here in Florida today. Waking up to a very brisk, chilly morning was refreshing but also a bit of a shock to the system I must admit. It is rather ironic that as I sit here freezing in Florida while family in Queens, New York will most likely be hit by a Hurricane in the coming hours. With that said, I guess it is only fitting that there is no better way to warm up your day then starting it off with a sweet and gooey, calorie-laced cinnamon roll straight from the oven. Although there are many food court or fast food leaner and punier cousins to the homemade cinnamon roll, nothing is quite as satisfying as eating a cinnamon roll made from scratch or a neighborhood bakery. Processed cinnamon rolls lack the richness of soft, buttery Brioche dough, the gooey abundance of cinnamon-sugar filling, and the thick and sticky cream cheese glaze that a great homemade cinnamon roll can offer.
To start the cinnamon roll off on the right foot, selecting the proper type of yeast dough is key. Some cinnamon roll formulas will use a sweet bread dough which is too lean, a Danish dough which is overly buttery and way too much labor, or Challah which is neither rich or soft enough for the ideal roll. By far the best in my opinion is Brioche, which isn’t flaky or overly buttery, but rather a tender and rich base with which to begin the Ultimate Cinnamon Roll. Next stop is the filling. Granulated sugar is far too bland in a cinnamon roll of epic status. Using light brown sugar instead adds a caramel flavor which is further emphasized when it melts down into ooey gooey deliciousness. Just be sure that you use light brown sugar and not dark because then you will go from one extreme to another. First being too bland and then to being too bold and overshadowing the cinnamon with caramel flavor. Any cinnamon of course would do in this formula but I wanted the Ultimate most Epic Cinnamon Roll and to do that you need some fine cinnamon. I chose to use a blend of hand-mixed China, Vietnamese, Korintje, and Ceylon Cinnamon. The result… filling that is PERFECTO!!! Of course with more filling comes the risk of it all crumbling out everywhere as it is rolled up. To prevent this, a slathering of butter is necessary and since the original yeast dough base is not a significantly buttery dough to begin with, slathering the butter in this step doesn’t affect the dough in a negative way but rather enriches it perfectly and provides the desired rich, gooey filling.
Last stop on the road to Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls ends with the glaze. Most formulas top the rolls with a cream cheese frosting full of butter and confectioner’s sugar, causing already rich rolls to be just too darn sweet. By eliminating the butter and replacing it with a bit of milk and vanilla, the cream cheese glaze now had the perfect amount of rich flavor without being too over the top. By adding a bit of the glaze while the rolls were still warm allowed the it to penetrate the rolls and add an extra element of flavor and tenderness. Adding the rest of the glaze after the rolls had cooled for some time prevented it from melting and created a nice thick layer of frosting sure to never disappoint.
Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls
- ¾ cup Milk, warmed to 110°
- 1 envelope Rapid-Rise or Instant Yeast (2 ¼ tsp.)
- 3 Eggs, room temp.
- 4 ¼ cups Bread Flour
- ½ cup Cornstarch
- ½ cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. Salt
- 12 tbsp. ( 1 ½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
- 1 ½ cups Light Brown Sugar, packed
- 1 ½ tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, softened
- 4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
- 1 tbsp. Milk
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 ½ cups Confectioners’ Sugar
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 200°. Once preheated, shut off the oven. Line a 13 x 9 in. pan with foil, allowing a bit of excess to hang over the edges. Grease the pan with cooking spray.
- Mix heated milk and yeast together until yeast dissolves. Allow to bloom a few minutes. Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and use the bowl to mix the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add the milk/yeast mixture in a steady stream. Add the eggs and mix until the dough comes together. Increase to medium speed and add the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix the dough until it is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl in a cohesive ball, about 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warm oven. Let rise until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. (If not using a stand mixer, be sure to place the dough in a oven safe bowl before placing in the preheated oven.)
- Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough into an 18 in. square. Spread the softened butter over the dough, leaving a ½ in. border around the edges. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and lightly press the sugar mixture to adhere it to the dough.
- Starting with the edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam lightly to seal it and place the seam side down. Use a metal bench scraper or knife to cut the rolled log in half and then into 8 pieces for large cinnamon rolls or 12 pieces for mini cinnamon rolls. Transfer the pieces, cut side facing up, into the prepared 13 x 9 pan. Cover with plastic wrap and proof in the warmed, shut off oven until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Remove cinnamon rolls from oven or warm spot. Discard plastic wrap. Heat oven to 350°. Bake cinnamon rolls until golden brown and filling is melted, 30 to 40 minutes. While cinnamon rolls bake, whisk cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Once the cinnamon rolls have finished baking, transfer the pan to a wire cooling rack and ice the rolls with ½ cup of the glaze, reserving the remaining glaze for later. Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool for about 30 minutes. Using the foil overhang created earlier, gently lift the rolls from the pan and top with the remaining glaze. Serve warm.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
PETER MENDOROS – PHOTOGRAPHY
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2012