Tsoureki is the Greek sweet Challah bread, flavored with mastiha, mahlepi and mavrokouki. Every Christmas and Easter of my life this is the smell I remember…Eating tsoureki for a week after New Years, because we have so much left over…Not that I ever complained!
Last year I made a successful vegan batch, but never got down the recipe. This year I went a little crazy, made 2 batches that went to the trash and even burnt a batc. So I finally have the perfect vegan tsoureki recipe to share with you…with a lot of tips and ideas.
2 cubes fresh yeast
1 tbsp honey or petimezi
1 cup water
4 tbsp flour
1kg whole spelt pastry flour (ντίνκελ ημιολικής)
1/2 cup honey or petimezi
2ooml fresh orange juice
250ml oat milk or more orange juice or water
1 tsp mastiha powder
1 tsp ground mahlepi
1 cup virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tbsp petimezi
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp mavrokouki seeds
First make the starter by whisking all the ingredients together. To make the dough, use a large bowl and add the flour and the spices and whisk. In a separate bowl mix the liquid sweetener, orange juice and the starter and dump all that to the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon and when it’s all incorporated, start kneading with your hands for a few minutes, then add in the coconut oil and knead more. Keep kneading strongly for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is very elastic. Leave the dough to rise and double in size, about 2 hours, covered with a tea towel. Once the dough is ready, start shaping your tsoureki however you like. You can make 2-3 large loaves of more smaller ones. This is the kind of dough that is strong enough to braid however you like, so get creative. Place your braided loaves on lined baking pans and brush them with the flax water, then sprinkle them with the seeds and let the rise for about 20 minutes. Bake until they get a golden color, around 20 minutes. Take them our of the oven, brush the tops with extra coconut oil and return them in the oven (turn it off) for about 10 minutes.
*Using the right spices is really important because they give the authentic tsoureki flavor to your loaf, so you want to use them…If you dont live in Greece, look for them online.
*Adding the oil after you knead the rest of the dough a bit, seems to work better and gives the right chewy stringy texture to the loaf.
*I first tried to make this with whole Kamut flour and it didn’t work. Your best bet it to use spelt flour that if finely ground and semi-whole or use 500gr white spelt and 500gr whole spelt.
*Make sure you use fresh yeast, as it will help the dough rise better, since the oil makes the dough heavier.
*Make sure that the dough has fully risen and it’s more than double in size, with big air bubbles. If not keep waiting for it to rise more.
*When you bake the dough, you should cover the top so that it doesn’t burn. Another way to bake them is to preheat the oven and before you put the dough in, turn the heat off, and let them cook until they are golden brown. Don’t be scared to use this method, I actually think is the best way to a soft loaf.
*If the crust is too tough, brush it with coconut oil after baking.
*The acidity of the orange juice plays an important role on tenderizing the dough so make sure you use it.
*You can use all water instead of milk and orange juice, but add a few drops of lemon juice.
*If you like things sweeter, add extra sweetener because the amount I use makes a mildly sweet dough.
*You can shape the dough however you like, but I suggest doing a six-strand braid (you can watch videos on youtube on how to do it) because it gives more height to the loaf.
*To keep the tsoureki soft, wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a plastic bag as airtight as possible.