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Tsoureki (Greek τσουρέκι; also çörek (Turkish), شوريك (Arabic), panarët (Arbërisht), choreg or "chorek" (Armenian չորեկ), çörək (Azerbaijani), kozunak (Bulgarian козунак) or cozonac (Romanian)) is a sweet, egg-enriched bread, rooted in the cuisines of Western and Central Asia. It is formed of braided strands of dough. There are also savoury versions.
Such rich brioche-like breads are also traditional in many other countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic. Examples of similar breads from other cultures are badnji kruh in Croatian cuisine, colomba de páscoa in Portuguese cuisine, Brioche in French, kulich in Russian cuisine, panettone in Italian cuisine and challah in Jewish cuisine.
Rich brioche-like breads (often braided) are known by various Greek names that represent three major holidays for Greeks: Easter, Christmas and New Year's. There are many local varieties of these festive breads, based on milk, flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, butter, and a flavoring which can be mahlab, Chian mastic or cardamom. The butter is added after kneading: the dough is stretched, brushed with melted butter, folded and stretched again repeatedly, until all the butter is incorporated. The result of this technique is that the baked bread separates easily into strands. A good tsoureki should be soft, moist and fluffy, yet stringy and chewy.
Tsoureki / Lampropsomo / Lamprokouloura: Easter Bread
The word tsoureki refers not only to the Easter batches, but to the traditionally sweet bread that's made under most circumstances; it is derived from the Turkish name.
The Greek word lampropsomo (λαμπρόψωμο) is derived from one Greek word for Easter, Λαμπρή, which means "bright light," and ψωμί, which means bread; referring to the light Christians believe is given to them by Christ's resurrection. Another name for the bread is lamprokouloura (Λαμπροκουλούρα): κουλούρα means "round" and, therefore, various forms of cookies and round breads. This braided bread can be shaped either into a circle or into two large braids and sprinkled with nuts, usually slivered, blanched almonds. It is served with red Easter eggs that have been dyed to represent the blood of Christ or red rosebuds.
This bread was traditionally prepared with an essence drawn from the seeds of Mediterranean wild cherries, called makhlepi, (Greek: μαχλέπι). The bread can also be flavoured with mastic, the resin from Pistacia lentiscus, var. chia. In more recent years, vanilla-scented tsoureki has also become popular. If going for the full aromatic effect, a fourfold melange of aromatics is used: makhlepi, Chios mastic, cardamom, and vanilla.
Christopsomo: Christmas Bread
Christopsomo (Χριστόψωμο), which translates as "Christ's bread", is a Greek bread decorated with an early form of the Christian cross with ends that split and curl into circles. Sometimes dough shapes representing initials, birth dates, ages and aspects of the family's life and profession are added. Christopomo is a rich, round loaf scented with wine soaked figs, anise and orange. It sometimes contains such ingredients as nuts, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and mastic, a dried pine resin. The bread is sometimes served with honey on Christmas Eve. Families leave pieces of bread on the table believing that Christ will come and eat them during the night.
The preparation of Christopsomo is considered a sacred tradition in Greek Orthodox homes, and the care with which it is made is said to ensure the well-being of the home in the year to come. In earlier times, Greek cooks baked large quantities of bread to last for ten to fifteen days, so baking just one or two loaves of Christopsomo the night before Christmas had special significance. The cook would begin by crossing him/herself before starting baking.
Tsourekaki: Easter Cookie
Tsourekaki (Τσουρεκάκι): A variant which consists of biscuits in the shape of the original tsoureki. It is common to add orange flavour.
Vasilopita: New Year's Bread
The traditional New Year's Cake, Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα) is sometimes a tsoureki.
In Armenian tradition, a big batch of choreg is baked for Easter, with one of the choregs containing a coin for good luck to whomever gets it.
- Толковìй словарь живаго великорусскаго язîка, Dal' V.I., IAS, 1869
- Sözlerin soyağacı : çağdaş Türkçenin etimolojik sözlüğü [Word origins: etymological dictionary of contemporary Turkish], Sevan Nişanyan, Istanbul 2002