AN EASTER LIKE NO OTHER –
I’m not ashamed to say that Easter is my favourite time of the year. Having lived abroad during university, the time I felt most homesick was during the Easter holidays when I knew how much I was missing out on back at home. There were many phone calls from loved ones (mainly my mum) who would hold the phone out while a band marched passed and I’d sit in my little student room, crying my eyes out.
You see, growing up in Corfu where the week leading up to Easter Sunday is a constant flow of marching bands playing sombre tunes (you can tell I like my bands) the smell of “Tsoureki” wafting out of every house and visitors arriving by the masses on a daily basis, somehow being anywhere else but there is just not good enough!
This year is quite different; virtually everything is closed and people are asked to stay at home.
No gatherings of long distant relatives in faraway mountain villages to roast a lamb on the spit and guzzle back theio Spiros’ wine which he has been saving especially for this day. This year we have to put everyone’s health first and stay home in order to prevent this virus from doing any further damage – if it means none of theio Spiros’ wine this year, then so be it, Lidl’s wine it is!
Staying at home during this time does, of course, have some benefits – those lucky enough to have a garden now have an abundance of time to watch everything bloom (and spend virtually every waking minute pulling up weeds which at this time of year seem to multiply every second!)
Let’s not even get started on the fact everyone will be applying to Bake Off once this is all over! Hot cross buns? Check! Simnel cake? Check! Tsoureki? Check! White chocolate cheesecake? Check! Thankfully, there was no panic buying in Corfu so supermarkets have been stocked with baking essentials at all times!
We’re even going one step further and dyeing our own red eggs this year – no shop-bought ones for us! (For those who don’t know, it’s a Greek Orthodox tradition on Holy Thursday to dye hard-boiled eggs red – these are then used on Easter Sunday for the “tsougrisma”.)
In any case, even though there won’t be any pot smashing on Holy Saturday or music ringing in the ressurection at midnight, we will all console ourselves with (questionable) home baked goods and Lidl’s wine, with the hope that next year we can get back to our normal Easter celebrations in true Corfiot style!
TSOUREKI [BY APHRODITI]
Yields 10-12 Tsoureki breads
2 cups milk
2 cups warm water
150g fresh yeast
2 1/2 kg Flour
3 1/2 cups Sugar
1/2 Greek coffee cup of Cognac
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp Baking powder
2 tsp Mahalepi spice
Sesame seeds (optional)
Almond slices (optional)
In a large bowl put cloves, milk, warm water, and melt the yeast in this mixture add 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Leave the rest for later.
Cover bowl and let this rise to double in size. About half hour.
Beat eggs in mixer, add sugar then slowly melted butter and oils. Add cognac, mahalepi and baking powder and start adding flour. At some point you will need to pour this mixture in a big basin and start kneeding and adding flour as you go. Dough must be a little bit sticky but still smooth and it shouldn’t stick to your fingers. Adding a bit of oil to hands as you kneed also helps.
Allow dough to rest and rise for at least an hour. It should double or more in size.
Then use scissors to cut pieces to mold into shapes. You can braid it or twirl it as you wish. Allow these to rise once again for about an hour.
Baste with egg wash and add toppings(sesame and/or almonds)
Preheat oven at 160C
Bake them for approx. 22-28 min.
Stay safe everyone and Kalo Pasxa -Happy Easter!