For some reason we never had the traditional Greek bread at our Easter table, but I would make it out of season from time to time. The recipe always fascinated me with all the eggs, sugar and butter. Needless to say, it’s a very rich and sweet bread. Traditionally it’s made with hard-boiled eggs dyed red and baked into it, but I don’t use the eggs.
The first time I made this bread oh so many years ago, my folks made Melba toast with it and I can still remember how good the dense, sweet, crispy bread tasted with a little shmear of cream cheese and cup of stout black tea.
Greek Easter Bread (makes 1 large or two regular loaves)
You can see from the picture this recipe makes a very large loaf of bread. You can cut the recipe in half and make one smaller loaf. I braid mine, but you can shape it into a round or use a regular bread pan. Two bread pans would be needed for the full recipe.
1/4 cup (60ml) warm milk
1/4 cup (60lml) warm water
1 package or 2-1/4 teaspoons (7.5g) active dry yeast
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 Tbsp.
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (240ml) sugar
5-6 cups (1200-1440ml) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp. (7.5ml) grated orange peel
1/2 Tbsp. (7.5ml) sesame seeds
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and milk along with a pinch of sugar. Set aside for ten minutes or so until it’s frothy.
In a large bowl, whisk 3-1/2 cups (840ml) of flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel together. Make a well in the center.
In another bowl, combine the yeast mixture, the stick of melted butter (set the tablespoon of butter aside), eggs and sugar. Pour the mixture into the well in the flour. Stir until everything is combined. The dough will be quite sticky. Add flour a quarter cup at a time until it’s workable. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead–adding more flour as necessary–until you get a soft elastic dough. It will still be sticky, but won’t leave a residue on the board or your hands. You should be using between 5 and 5-1/2 cups (1200ml/1320ml) of flour total. Form the dough into a ball.
Add the 1 tablespoon (15ml) of melted butter to a bowel large enough to accommodate the dough as it rises. Roll the dough in the butter to coat on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Set aside in a warm place for two hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and lightly knead on a lightly floured board to remove any large air bubbles.
Form the dough into the shape you want. If you want to braid the dough, cut it into three equal pieces, roll the pieces into 12 inch ropes, braid like your would braid hair, pinch the ends together and tuck them under.
Cover with plastic or a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush over the top of the loaf–you won’t need all the egg. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Bake at 350F/175 C degrees for 50-60 minutes. After 30 minutes, check to make sure it isn’t getting too dark. It should be dark brown, but not black. If it’s getting too brown, tent the dark areas with aluminum foil.
Let cool before slicing.