Thursday, April 26, 2007
Pretty, isn't it? It's the traditional Greek Easter bread tsoureki, using the little known spices mastic and mechlebe/mahlepi (you can see them both here) and usually garnished with red eggs*. I've made tsoureki before (twice, actually), to a great acclaim from a number of Greeks, and it has become a regular feature at my Easter table.
The recipe I've used on the previous occasions was an adapted from Paul Hollywood's book 100 Great Breads, and it (the adapted version, that is) worked just well. But as a kind friend had sent me a copy of Theodore Kyriakou's widely acclaimed book, The Real Greek at Home: Dishes from the Heart of the Greek Kitchen, then I decided to test another recipe for tsoureki instead this year. After all, Kyriakou is the Chef of the The Real Greek restaurant in London and hailed as the Greek chef and expert on the Hellenic cuisine in the UK. So his recipe should definitely please, no?
Well, it failed to do that. I should have got suspicious about the amount of spices. Whereas Hollywood used two pieces of mastic and a pinch of mahlepi per half a kilogram of flour, then Kyriakou used 3 pieces of mastic (that's fine), but a whopping 1.5 tsp of mahlepi - that's quite a difference from a pinch! This meant that these spices (plus the addition of star anise infusion) didn't just give a hint of musky spiciness to the bread, but utterly and totally hijacked the flavour, especially mahlepi. And whereas I love the subtle hint of mastic and mahlepi, then too much is simply too much. Also, Kyriakou's version asked for the inclusion of six whole eggs in the pastry, which may have explained the toughness of the resulting bread. Ok, I may have slightly over-kneaded the pastry, which explains why the bread looks a bit stretched on the photo above, but believe me, this was the least of the problems. It was just, blah, as some foodbloggers would say..
The moral of the story? Well, when something doesn't need fixing, then leave it alone. As simple as that.. Next year I'll try my old and trusted (that is, tested) recipe again :-)
The read egg on the photo was provided by the 5-year old Gretel. See here for more details.