GREEK EASTER BREADS

Easter preparations begin on Holy Thursday when the traditional eggs are dyed red and  sweet Easter bread may be baked.

Lampropsomo (=bright bread) or lamprokouloura (=bright circular bread) is rich in eggs and butter (foods forbidden during Lent) and is  often decorated on top with spring flowers, leaves, crosses and snakes made of dough. A red egg, symbol or rebirth, renewal and blood of Christ is usually -but not always- part of the decoration. Avgokouloura (circular bread with an egg), avkoula (large egg), kokona (lady), koutsouna (doll),

krios (ram),

kalathaki (basket),

Jesus’ foot ,

breads made into snail or snake shapes,

8-shaped breads:

the names of Easter breads vary according to the region and their shape. Many food words in modern Greek can be traced to other languages. Turkish is frequently a source because of the 400 years of Ottoman domination.  Thus tsoureki (Turk. çörek), another well known Easter bread, comes by this route.

It  has the flavours of mastic or mahlep or both, depending on the  regional preferences. Once made only at Easter, tsoureki is now mass -produced and found everywhere in the country, all year long.

A VERY EASY TSOUREKI RECIPE

2 k. flour

200 gr yeast

240 gr lightly warm water

550 gr sugar (or less)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mahlep, toasted and ground

lemon zest

1 tsp mastic powder

10 eggs lightly beaten + 1 egg

140 gr milk

100 gr orange juice

500 gr butter or 250 gr butter + 250 gr extra virgin olive oil

1 hard boiled egg, dyed red

Dissolve yeast in the water and add about 1/2 cup flour. Mix thoroughly, cover with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes. Add the ingredients in the order they are listed and on a floured surface or in a mixer, knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Form ropes, each about 25 cm long and twist gently. Braid sets of 3 ropes and place them on greased baking sheets or baking pans and allow to doubled. Brush  with beaten egg. Place the boiled, dyed eggs. Bake tsourekia in preheated oven (175 C) for 30 minutes or until golden brown. ________________________________________________________________________________ On holy Saturday, Easter breads and red eggs are placed in baskets and then they are taken to church to be blessed. Some of them will be given as gift  to  godparents from children. In earlier times the newly married women also offered Easter bread to their parents in law. _____________________________________________________________________________ Since Easter Monday is associated with funerary customs,  it is common for people to visit the cemeteries and place red eggs, Easter breads and cookies on the graves. The departed can thus share in  family joys. ______________________________________________________________________________

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