Recipe courtesy Cathy Speronis

Recipe Summary

Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 30 min. plus rising time
Cook Time: 25 35 minutes
Yield: 6 loaves

Tsoureki is an Easter cake sprinkled with sesame seeds and decorated with red eggs.

4 tablespoons active dry yeast
cup warm water
cup all-purpose flour, plus 5 pounds sifted flour, or more as needed
1 tablespoon plus 3 cups sugar
teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
12 eggs, plus 1 or 2 eggs, beaten, for topping
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled
5 sticks (1 pounds) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground mahlepi flavoring (see note) or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
sesame seeds for topping
red-dyed hard-boiled eggs for decoration (optional)

Mix yeast with water. Add cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and teaspoon salt. Stir, and let rise in a warm place until mixture bubbles and foams, about 10 minutes.
In a very large bowl beat 12 eggs. Add 3 cups sugar, cooled milk, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon salt. Stir in yeast mixture. Blend mahlepi with sifted flour. (If using vanilla add to egg mixture.) Gradually add flour mixture to liquid to make a stiff and elastic dough. Knead well on a floured board for about 5 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl: cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in bulk. Punch down and turn over in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and let rise again until almost double in bulk. (The second rising should not take as long as the first.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Shape dough into eighteen 14-inch-long ropes, braid 3 at a time, and place on greased round bread pans or cookie sheets to rise: cover. When they have doubled in bulk, brush with beaten eggs and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange 3 or 4 red eggs on each braid in the shape of a cross. If long braids are made, put 1 red egg at the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.

* Note: Mahlepi can be found at natural food stores.