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Tsourekia (Easter Bread)

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Ingredients

2 cups milk

2 ½ cups sugar

2 sticks butter

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon mastiff powder or 1 teaspoon crushed anise seed

4 packages active dry yeast

1 cup very warm water

6 eggs, well beaten

16 cups all-purpose flour

Milk or egg wash

Sesame seeds

Directions

  1. In a heavy saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in sugar, butter, salt, and mastihi powder or anise seed. Cool to lukewarm.
  3. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Beat eggs until light and fluffy in a large bowl.
  4. Slowly beat in milk mixture, yeast, and 2 cups flour. Mix well. Transfer batter to a large deep bowl. Add more flour with a wooden spoon. Add only enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Dough may be sticky.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll to coat with flour. Cover with a cloth. Let rise for 10 minutes. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased deep pan, turning to coat. Cover with wax paper and cloth. Let rise in a warm place for 3 hours until doubled in size. Punch down. Knead a few times.
  6. Divide dough into five portions. Shape into braided loaves. Place on a large greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Brush tops with milk or egg wash. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes. If loaves are large, bake for 35 minutes until golden brown. Loaf will sound hollow when tapped. If loaves brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Remove from pans. Cool.
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