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Tsoureki

Tsoureki is a brioche-style bread traditionally eaten at Easter. It is often accompanied by the cheese manouri and honey (if you cannot find manouri try eating it with any type of mild tasting goat cheese or even yellow cheese). Due to its popularity, tsoureki is eaten all year round as a breakfast bread with jam or honey or as a sweet snack.

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Ingredients:

2 cups, plus 2-3 tbs, milk
2 envelopes active dry yeast
8-9 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup almonds, very finely chopped
1 tsp salt
Grated rind of one orange
2 tsp finely ground aniseed
1/2 tsp ground mastiha
1/4 cup olive oil
5 eggs

Procedure:

Preheat oven at 190° C.

1. Warm 2 cups of milk and pour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, 1 cup of the flour, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cover with cling film making sure it is airtight. put in a warm place in your kitchen, making sure there is little chance of an abrupt temperature change.  Proof for 1 hour.

2.Combine 7 cups of flour, the ground almonds, salt, the remaining sugar, orange rind, ground mastiha and aniseed  in a large bowl.

3. Make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, olive oil, and eggs. Stir the mixture with your hand or with a wooden spatula working from the center outward, until the flour has absorbed all the liquids. You should now have a homogenous dough.

4. Dust a work surface with a little of the remaining flour and knead, adding more flour if necessary. The amount of time this will take varies according to the outside temperature, if it is very hot in your kitchen the dough may always stick to your hands, so make sure that you stop kneading it when it has a smooth texture and is manageable. {Careful not to add too much flour in your attempt to get it to stop sticking!}

5. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours.

6. Punch down dough. Divide into six small balls and roll each into strips 12-15 inches long, and abut 2 inches in diameter. Lay three strips side by side, pinching together at one end, and braid. Pinch together at the other end to hold the loaf intact.

7. Repeat the procedure to make the second loaf. Place the breads on a lightly oiled baking sheet, covered, and let rise for two hours, or until doubled in bulk.

8. Beat together the egg yolk and remaining milk. Brush over tsoureki loaves and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

9. It is ready when the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove and cool on racks