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The Soft & Sweet Bread That Smells Like Greek Easter

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My mother, Artemis Gyftopoulos—a phenomenal self-taught home cook and entertainer who passed away a few years ago—gave me this recipe for tsoureki when I got married and had my own family so I could continue this tradition.

It's a bread made twice a year, for New Year's and Easter, with distinct flavorings—masticha and mahlepi—that can be found at many Middle Eastern markets.

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These two additions make the smell of the baking bread distinct—and one that reminds me of the many parties we had in our home in Lincoln, Massachusetts with the larger Greek community of friends and family.

Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter and New Year's Bread)
Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter and New Year's Bread)

For the New Year, a coin is hidden in the bread, which is cut for the children of the family in order of age, beginning with the oldest. Whoever receives the coin is thought to have good luck for the year.

At Easter time, the biggest celebration for Greeks, we make the bread to share with friends and family. We dye boiled eggs red and place them in the bread as it bakes. The eggs are one of the oldest traditions for Greek Orthodox Christians and they are a symbol of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

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But mostly, the smell of the baking bread is reminiscent of the beautiful family my parents created (I have two sisters), as well as the great love and passion that my mother communicated by sharing amazing food with others and including everyone around her table. My four children and husband continue to look forward to the aroma in the kitchen while the bread rises and bakes, which brings them wonderful memories of being at my parents' home.

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Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter and New Year's Bread)

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Makes 2 to 3 loaves
  • 1 envelope dry active yeast
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 for egg wash
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon mahlepi
  • 3/4 teaspoon masticha
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

What cooking or baking smell do you associate with spring? Tell us in the comments below.