The christmas baking season has started, however, I must confess, until now I bake mostly my own traditional recipes, instead of greek sweets. I do miss sweets like Elisenlebkuchen, Zimtsterne or Stollen – this is why I bake them with my friends here, as well possible with my not-so-much-trustworthy baking oven.
Still, I am trying to taste myself through all the delicacies I encounter everywhere in the city. During christmas time, the most popular biscuits are Μελομακάρονα (Melomakarona, a very heavy cookie drenched in sirup and tossed with walnuts, sometimes covered with dark chocolate) and Kουραμπιέδες (Kourabiedes, which are common for all kinds of celebrations). Kourabiedes remind me a lot of my family’s recipe of Vanillekipferl, they are very buttery and tender and will crumble in your hands as you take them – unlike many other “German” Vanillekipferl recipes. They are delicious!
However, I will share with you a recipe today, that I have been baking together with Xara some weeks ago. She is working in the Goethe Institutes café and learning German in the institute – so with hands and feet we managed to put this τσουρέκι (Tsoureki) together. It is traditionally a Greek Easter speciality, but in Thessaloniki it is present all year round, as the local bakery Terkenlis offers a broad variety of traditional Tsoureki, e.g. with lemon and orange, chocolate, nougat or filled with chestnuts. You will recognize this special Tsoureki as it is covered with white or black chocolate.
This is Xara’s recipe for a Tsoureki filled with chestnuts.
400 g chestnuts, unpeeled
150 g sugar
300 ml water
500 g wheat flour
150 ml water
15 g dry yeast
20 g sugar
10 g mahleb (a spice made from the seed of a cherry – you may substitute it with bitter almond aroma)
1,5 g mastic (a kind of resin used in middle eastern cuisine – the german wikipedia article describes them in a heartwarming way: “Es sind kleine hellgelbe bis grünlich gelbe, ungleichförmige, kugelige bis birnenförmige, durchsichtige oder undurchsichtige, harte, glasige Bruchstücke.”)
1 pinch of natural vanilla
1 pinch of salt
peel from 1 orange
150 g honey
150 g butter
150 g white chocolate (or dark, if you prefer)
For the filling: Bring the 300 ml of water to a boil and add the sugar. Boil the chestnuts without peeling them for around 20 minutes. When taking them out of the water, keep the sirup. Peel the chestnuts and add a little bit of the sirup. Blend it until it becomes a thick puree, eventually add more of the sirup.
For the dough: In a big bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water, add 2 tablespoons of the flour and combine. Pour the rest of the flour on top and let rise without combining them for 20 minutes. Add sugar, spices and orange peel and gently mix. Add eggs, 100g of softened butter and honey. Combine until you have a smooth dough. Let the dough rise until it has doubled.
Melt the rest of the butter (50 g). Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Roll out each one until it is 10 cm wide. Brush with the melted butter, then add the chestnut puree in a line in the middle. Close the dough pieces and gently roll them until they are even. If you need some help with those steps, check out this video (minute 3:10).
Now, let’s start braiding! This video might help you.
When your tsoureki is done, place it on a baking tray covered with baking sheet. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Whisk up the eggwhite and brush the braid before baking it in the pre-heated oven at 180°C for around 35-40 minutes until it is golden.
Let cool down completely. Melt the chocolate carefully in a bain-marie and cover the tsoureki. Let cool.
Thank you Xara and Kostas!