A la Grecque
Mark Roper

These days you can buy tsoureki in pastry shops all through the year, but in Greek villages the making of tsoureki is still a special tradition reserved for the Thursday before Easter. Tsoureki is a rich, buttery brioche flavoured with masticha and mahlep and after the strict vegan diet that many people observe during Lent, it is greatly anticipated as celebration food. Waiting until after the Easter Mass is finished before indulging can often be almost too much to bear – especially when the tsoureki is fresh out of the oven, and still warm and fragrant.

I always make my tsoureki on Easter Saturday so it is still very fresh on Easter Sunday. And I have been known to sneak in a taste before the appointed time, justifying my weakness by saying that the cook needs to know that a dish is successful before offering it to others.

If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook then tsoureki is much easier to make. Mastic, mahlep and orange flower water are all available from Greek supermarkets or delicatessens.


Quantity Ingredient
40g dried yeast
325g sugar
190ml warm milk
1kg plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon ground mastic
2 teaspoons ground mahlep
6 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 extra, for glazing
2 teaspoons orange flower water
350g unsalted butter, softened
50g flaked almonds


  1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm milk and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it starts to froth up.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the sugar with the orange zest, mastic and mahlep. Pour the frothy yeast into the flour and add the beaten eggs and orange flower water. Mix together well then knead for 10 minutes to form a smooth, elastic dough. You can do this by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. Punch the dough down then turn it out onto your work surface. Flatten it out into a disc, about 4 cm thick. Smear the surface with the softened butter then fold the sides in to enclose the butter. Place the dough in an electric mixer and knead until the butter is completely incorporated. This takes quite a while and the dough will become very sticky, but gradually it will come together.
  4. Tip the dough out onto a work surface and knead with your hands until you have a smooth, glossy, manageable dough. Place in an oiled bowl and leave to rise overnight in a cool place – preferably in the fridge.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and lightly grease a large baking tray.
  6. Divide the dough into 9 even pieces, 3 for each loaf. Use your hands to roll each piece of dough into a thick sausage, about 25 cm long. Lay 3 pieces side by side. Pinch them together at one end and weave into a plait. You can leave the loaf as a long plait or form it into a circle. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  7. Place the 3 loaves onto the baking tray. Brush each with beaten egg and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise for a final time. Bake for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 160ºC and bake for a further 25 minutes until the loaves are fragrant and golden brown.
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