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Friday, April 17, 2009

Chocolate Tsoureki (Τσουρέκι Σοκολατένιο)

In August 2007, my wife and I visited the northern Greek province of Macedonia. We stayed for several days in Thessaloniki where we admired and sampled the sights and tastes of the beautiful port city. This recipe was inspired by that visit.

My Chocolate Tsoureki - Click to Enlarge Image
Tsoureki is essentially a Greek brioche style of sweet bread. The flavours of this bread consist of a hint of orange combined with mahlepi and a subtle essence of mastic (mastiha). It is usually made at Easter and is a universal element in the celebration of this most important holiday of the Greek calendar. Such braided breads are an ancient tradition among Greeks.

The inspiration for this variation on the traditional tsoureki came from the storefront window of one of Thessaloniki’s best known bakeries, Τερκενλης (Terkenlis), which has been serving up its famous pastries since 1948. Today, Patisserie Terkenlis has several locations, mostly in Thessaloniki, with two shops in Athens, one of which is located at the Eleutherios Venizelos Airport (Greece’s main international airport).

The Terkenlis window display in Thessaloniki, my inspiration - Click to Enlarge

I used my Tsoureki: the Bread that Swallows its Tail recipe which I posted last year to make the traditional loaves. I usually bake three tsourekia (plural), one of which we keep and the other two go to our godchildren. Now, whereas the Terkenlis version of chocolate covered tsoureki includes a chocolatey filling, I avoided it altogether. This morning, after the other two loaves had been delivered to our godchildren, I applied the Terkenlis touch to our remaining loaf, blanketing it with chocolate and a sprinkling of slivered blanched almonds.

The two tsoureki loaves which went to our godchildren - Click to Enlarge

The recipe for the chocolate covering could not be easier. I used 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips and two tablespoons of vegetable shortening (Crisco, in this case). I melted the chocolate combined with the shortening in a double boiler pan, mixed it well until smooth, and proceeded to pour the covering over the entire tsoureki loaf, starting with a thick layer along its centre; and then doubling back over its length until it was fully covered. I used an icing spatula to spread it over any bare spots. Next, I blanched a small handful of almonds, slivered them and sprinkled them overtop. The result was quite impressive, and a good likeness to the tsourekia we had seen in the window of Terkenlis.

Once more in all its glory - Click to Enlarge

With that, I would like to wish all those who are celebrating Greek Easter this Sunday a Kalo Paskha / Καλό Πάσχα (Happy Easter)! May the sun shine for Sunday’s spitted lamb roasts, wherever you may live, in Greece or in the Greek Diaspora. For those of you who have Greeks living in your neighbourhood, the likelihood that the scent of roasted lamb will waft your way on Sunday will make for an excellent opportunity to get to know your neighbours better, and to sample some excellent Greek food. Trust me; they will not turn you away should you decide to pay them a visit.

I will leave you with a description of the Easter celebration among the Greek Evzones in the 1930s by an American writer present at the time:
I shall never forget my visit one morning to the Evzone barracks at the edge of the royal gardens. In truly Homeric manner great numbers of lamb carcasses were being roasted over pits where the embers of pine branches glowed and sputtered as the scorched fat dripped down. The glistening “Arnakia a la Palikare” were tended by stiff-skirted Evzones of the royal guard, happy with virile gaiety, basting, jabbing, the slowly turning lambs. On that memorable Sunday morning the smells from the crackling fat and the smoking pine boughs joined together and rose on the clear spring air like most fragrant incense to the gods. Back, back, year by year, I thought as I watched them, that same ceremonious culinary rite had been carried out in that ancient land; the same odour of roasting lamb flesh and charred boughs had risen on the spring air since the dawn of time.

Kali Anastasi / Καλή Ανάσταση (Happy Resurrection)!

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
http://www.greekgourmand.com
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.

19 comments:

Foodfanataholic said...

Sam,

The bread looks fabulous. I am in a bread baking mode this week for some reason. I must try it!
The chocolate covering makes you want to bite the computer to eat it up! Happy Greek Easter...
Elise

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a delightful speciality! Yours looks even better than the ones at the bakery! Wonderful!

Happy Easter!

Cheers,

Rosa

Sarah said...

looks tasty, I didn't realize that Greeks use so much mastic in their cooking.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

I swear I can smell the chocolate through the computer. It seemed to me that chocolate was rather rare in Greece. Am I right? Pastries featured were honey pastries rather than the preponderance of chocolate we get here. Candy shops were a different thing, but I don't recall seeing much chocolate in the bakeries. Kali Pashkta!

Vera

Heidi from Savory Tv said...

This looks wonderful!

Cynthia said...

I hope that everyone clicked to see the beauty of this presentation.

Sam, thanks for continuing to teach me about your food. Who would not like a rich loaf covered in chocolate.

kalliope said...

With close to 80 degrees forecasted today in Portland, Oregon our celebration will include lamb chops, marinating in olive oil and lemon juice, spanakopita, salad and Greek potato salad. Χριστός Ανέστη!

Aliza said...

Sam...My friend Elise,(foodfanataholics, has introduced me to your fantastic blog. I have been following your faboulus recepies and informative stories; love every one of them! I am a Greek from Athens. Your blog brings Greece to my heart and senses, every time. I have downloaded many of your recepies and today I am going to make your Tsoureki with Chocolate, it sounds devine!
I'll be "meeting" you on your food blog.
Kallo Pasxa!
Aliza.

ΕΛΕΝΑ said...

Happy Easter Sam!!
Your tsoureki looks very very tasty:))

JessieV said...

YUM, Sam. i love your food. this looks fantastic!

Gabi said...

Hi Sam!

Great to see that chokolate covered bread! I think everything should be either covered in chocolate or wrapped in bacon - don't you think? Hehehe

Thought of you this Easter since my Dad in Romania celebrated that also given that the Orthodox Easter was one week later than the Catholic one celebrated in the US.

Anyway - glad to hear you are doing well!! Christ has Risen! Happy Easter, and all that!!

Gabi @ Mamaliga.com

George said...

Sam that bread looks gorgeous, I'd happily eat some right now.

Kevin said...

Those tsoureki look great! Then you covered them in chacolate making them even better. There is that mastic again as well.

Elana said...

In Greek "Tsoureki," in Jewish, "Challah."

Either way, looks fabulous. So glad I found your blog via twitter!

Color My Closet said...

Wow, Sam, I am so impressed w/ ur blog. Found u via followfriday on twitter. I cannot wait to try some of your recipes. Your passion for Greek food is evident, and I thank you for making this info available to people like me.

Anonymous said...

I recently returned from a trip to Thessaloniki and had the Tsoureki at Terkenlis and have been searching the internet for a recipie! Do you know what their chocolate filling is made of?

Rumela said...

I like this Chocolate tsoureki recipe. these tsoureki are sure to taste great. I am going to bake a batch for the holidays when my kids will be at home. although I'm to a big fan of chocolate tsoureki, this sure looks yummy! I'm normally the one that will say no to chocolate cake. thank you for shearing your post.

Elsa said...

Hello!!

It's my first time making tsourekia this year and I want to follow your recipe! It looks great! Did you use fresh yeast or active dry yeast?

Thanks!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hi Elsa, I used dry yeast. Enjoy and Happy Easter!