Saturday, May 1, 2010

GREEK EASTER


Despite my aunts' protests, there are many things about the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” that remind me of my family. Although we do not have doric columns in front of our homes and have long since removed the plastic from the couches, we do have cousins with all the same name and spit on each other to ward off the evil eye. One of my favorite things about being Greek, is Greek Easter and with only 359 days to go, I figured what better way to build your anticipation than show you some images of Greek Easter past.

Greek Easter represents what Greeks do best; cook, eat, dance and drink. Not necessarily in that order since the drinking can frequently start at 7am while my uncles truss the lamb and get it ready for the spit. By the time I arrive the party has already started and the tidbits of lamb and grilled haloumi cheese are already being passed around. It is an event not to be missed. Easter breads (“Tsoureki”) are kneaded days in advance and the eggs are dyed red on the Thursday before Mass. After 7 weeks of fasting, appetites are wet with anticipation and then the feast begins! Although the food is important, I do want to emphasize that it is the gathering of family and friends that makes this such a special day.


In order to understand how my family spends Greek Easter you need to first understand that my family is fun. Not regular fun, but super fun. My aunt Kathy will start dancing the second the guests arrive and then my aunt Effie will inevitably start breaking plates. This year Uncle Diamond broke her Pyrex dish and she wasn’t too happy about that, but in the end we all laughed and tried to hold onto our wine glasses in fear that they would be next on his list. By the time night falls, most of us are stuffed, hung-over and desperately in need of a nap.


In an effort to recreate this fabulous event for some of my American friends, I broke fast early this year and made a mini Greek Easter of my own on Easter's eve. In honor of this great day, I made roast lamb with lemon potatoes, spanakopita with homemade phyllo, Greek green salad, tsoureki, and kourambiedes for dessert. As with all Greek dinners, feta and olives were served, as was tsipouro and ouzo. Since Tsoureki bread is indicative of Greek Easter I have posted the recipe with a link with instructions on how to dye the eggs red below. The recipes for kourambie and spinach pies aka spanakopita, which are not inherent to Greek Easter and can be served on other holidays, will be posted shortly. If you are in desperate need of any of the referenced recipes feel free to email me.

“Tsoureki” Greek Easter Bread Recipe

4 cups flour (plus more for dusting)

1 packet (or 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast)

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs beaten

1 stick (8 Tbs. unsulated butter)

1 ½ tsp orange zest

1 tsp Mahlepi (if you can find it)

¼ tsp mastic powder (http://mastihashopny.com/)(or at Indian Markets)

1 egg yolk combined with tbs milk,

1-2 red-dyed hard-boiled egg

Sesame seeds or toasted sliced almonds to decorate

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan to about 105 – 110 degrees and to a bowl. Add the yeast to activate. (You will know it is working when bubbles start to form).
  2. Sift dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter and after it has cooled add the two eggs and orange zest.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.
  5. Slowly add the flour until it is all incorporated and let the dough hook knead the bread until the mass cleans the sides. Continue to knead for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface and need for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Place the dough in a warm, draft free spot covered by oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. After two hours (or more) divide the dough into three parts and roll out into long ropes. Secure the ropes together on one end and then braid them. Let the bread rise for a second time in a warm draft free place for about one hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 and make sure the oven rack is in the middle.
  9. Immediately before putting the bread in the oven, brush with the egg milk wash, sprinkle with either the almonds or sesame seeds and insert the red egg into the desired location (see photo).
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes until a deep golden color is obtained. Check after 20 minutes. When you tap the bottom it should sound hollow.

This year I divided the dough into two and made two mini loaves (see above), one straight and one circular, but use your discretion and creativity. There is no right or wrong way. As long as the red egg makes its debut, you have successfully made a Greek Tsoureki! For directions on dying the eggs, follow this link:

http://greekfood.about.com/od/greekcookingtips/ht/redeggs.htm

I found it necessary to add a little red food coloring to deepen the color, but the results were spectacular.

Tsigourisma - the breaking of the eggs for luck
Kali Orexi!



4 comments:

linda said...

Do I have to wait for next year or can I braid the bread and perhaps tuck some other little object in besides an egg, like say, a beautiful high heel :)?

Food Advokat said...

That could be fun. No need to wait and in fact I made french toast with it the next day so as you can tell there are multiple uses. I think the hope diamond would also look nice.

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

Your bread is so much more beautiful than my bread disaster. I will attempt to make it as soon as yeast and I are friends again :)

astrid said...

In my next life, I want to be Greek. You guys know how to eat well and have fun!

(Loved the blog, btw!!)