Friday, 3 May 2013

Cooking and Style: How to Make Tzurekia...Greek Sweet Bread

sweet bread

As you may already be aware, this year Greek Easter is being celebrated May 5th 2013 in accordance with the moon. I have already mentioned in previous posts that I am Greek and some traditions that my mum has passed on to me include coloring eggs and making this delicious sweet bread called Tzurekia. 

Today I am going to demonstrate with pictures and a video tutorial on how to become a master of this sweet bread. 

image: nectar and stone

Making Tzurekia can be quite difficult as it is all about how you work the dough and unless you physically see a person making them, I doubt they would turn out perfectly soft and fluffy. If you are wondering what you could compare Tzurekia to, think of a croissant but Tzurekia are a lot more flavorsome because they contain a Greek spice called Mahlepi.  

My philosophy which my mother also believes is to share your knowledge on recipes, tips and tricks. We are so passionate about cooking and baking that we enjoy seeing others achieve great outcomes with food, that is why I try to demonstrate as much as the process with photos and where possible video tutorials. 

Tzurekia

Ingredients: 
makes anywhere between 16 and 21 loaves

these are exact and precise measurements - do not add anything extra 

8 eggs
350g butter
1.575 litres milk
600g sugar
80g fresh yeast (you can ask your local baker for some)
375ml vegetable oil
2 1/2 teaspoons Mahlepi (any Greek deli should have this)
2 1/2 kg plain flour
a packet of sesame seeds or flaked almonds (optional)

extra
to make an egg wash

two egg yolks
4 tablespoons milk

Method:

You will need to really large stainless steel bowls and lots of baking trays to make the Tzurekia - scroll down and look at the first picture for the bowls - these bowls can be bought from Asian Knick Knack shops and Greek Shops also have them. 

1. Turn oven on to 180 degrees Celsius - this is on as you will warm the flour in there.

2. Crack 8 eggs into a mix-master with the sugar and beat for approx 10 minutes. You want to double the volume of the mixture. 

3. In a saucepan add oil and butter and melt over heat. You want it to be a little more than luke warm so use your little finger to see how warm it is. 

4. In another saucepan, warm up the milk - again you want it to be a little more than luke warm. 

5. Weigh out 80g of yeast and with a little warm water, add this to the yeast just to get the yeast melted. 

5. Place 2 1/2 kg of plain flour into a large stainless steel bowl and put into the pre-heated oven. After 5 minutes of the flour being in the oven, check it by running your hands through it and mix it a little. Put it back into the oven for another 4 minutes. 

6. Get everything ready - you will see this in the video. It is easiest to lay some old blankets on the floor and have everything around you ready. If you have someone to help you this will make life much easier. 

7. Make a well in the flour and add yeast mixture and Mahlepi and mix through with your hands really well. 

8. Add the egg and sugar mixture and begin to mix and claw the dough with your hands. 

9. Add milk very slowly, in 4-5 stages, ensuring that each time the milk has been fully combined and absorbed. 

10. Add the butter mixture, again in stages and ensuring each time that it has been absorbed. It will feel very wet and slippery but don't worry - you just need to keep working the dough. Please don't be tempted to add any flour - the measurements have all been worked out.

11. Once all the butter mixture has been added, you need to start pulling and pushing the dough (I call it the cat claw process) and throwing into the air. Watch the video to get an understanding of the process. This needs to be done for about 10 minutes and is the most important step to achieving soft Tzurekia. 

12. When you have worked the dough enough, split the dough into two stainless steel bowls and completely cover each bowl with cling wrap. 

13. In a warm room - it is great if you have floor ducted heating, place the two bowls near the heater and cover with blankets. The dough now needs to rest anywhere between 1 and 2 hours. It needs to double in size and when it is ready, it will almost look stringy. 

14. You will need to have several baking trays ready - lightly greased with vegetable oil or baking paper. 

15. When you are ready to start making the Tzurekia - you should only pull from the dough once and it needs to be roughly the size of an egg shape. Your bench should be lightly floured and have a small pile of flour near you for when you need it. Pull out several balls and have ready to work it. 

16. Lightly pull the ball and roll out to approximately 18 cm - and in terms of diameter - about 3 cm. When you have made three of these, then begin to plait. Place on baking trays - lightly brush with the egg wash and decorate with sesame seeds or flaked almonds. Then place near heater again - uncovered and allow to rest for another hour before baking. 

17. Have oven turned on to 180 degrees Celsius and when the Tzurekia have rested, place in oven to bake until beautifully golden brown. In my oven I can fit three trays - and it is okay to open the oven and check - they won't ruin at all. Sometimes you might need to change the trays to different levels - this is okay and I do it often to achieve a perfect color.  

18. Allow to completely cool before using cling wrap to keep covered - they will keep like this for about 4-5 days, otherwise keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

step by step pictures 
and video tutorial

image: nectar and stone
flour mixture - goes into the oven to warm up

image: nectar and stone
egg and sugar mixture

image: nectar and stone
egg and sugar mixture


image: nectar and stone
butter and vegetable oil mixture

image: nectar and stone
milk warming up


image: nectar and stone
egg and sugar mixture mixing


image: nectar and stone
egg and sugar mixture mixing when ready

***make sure you mix the yeast with a little warm water and have ready***

video tutorial below


nectar and stone video tutorial

image: nectar and stone
this is what the dough looks like after it has rested - this took 2 hours covered with the ducted heating on. 

Notice how the dough has taken on a slightly stringy appearance - this is a great sign that the dough has been made well. 

Video Tutorial on how to roll out and make the plait of the Tzurekia

nectar and stone video tutorial on how to roll and plait the Tzurekia

Once baked - this is what the Tzurekia will look like. 

image: nectar and stone

The great thing about Tzurekia is that you can wrap them up with cling wrap and freeze them - up to 2 months. Then all you need to do is allow them to thaw out and if you like - warm up in the microwave.  

image: nectar and stone

I hope you enjoyed this post - it was a big one but like I said before, its all the process, tips and visual images that will honestly help you to achieve the perfect Tzurekia. Any you can make it any time of the year. 

I had a kinder mum come over to watch my mother and I make them as in the past she couldn't get them be soft and fluffy. After she watched my mother and me, she went home and gave it a go. They came out perfect and she was very appreciative that we allowed her to come and watch, it's always a nice feeling knowing that we helped someone master a skill and technique. 

image: nectar and stone

Have a great Greek Easter and for those who are not Greek - have a go, I promise they are amazing!!!

xx