I made tsoureki with olive oil instead of butter for my 7 courses of olive oil feast using a subtle, fruity olive oil from the Peloponnese region of Greece. It was an experiment, which turned out to be successful (or else I wouldn't blog it and trust me, I have many rejects from the science lab buried out back). I was worried the richness from the butter would be missing, but the robust olive oil came through with more than enough gusto. I put less sugar in this recipe as my ultimate goal was to make Greek style grilled cheese sandwiches with the tsoureki. The decreased sugar ended up being a perfect balance of just slightly sweet that it could go either way - as a dinner bread, sweet breakfast bread, or whatever your versatile head had in mind. I also omitted the mahleb, mastiha and/or anise seeds with the sole purpose of allowing the olive oil flavors to shine through.
All in all I am extremely happy with the result of my olive oil tsoureki and I throughly encourage everyone to try it (or if you're in the Portland area and not into bread baking, then come one over and try mine)!
Olive Oil Tsoureki - τσουρέκι με ελαιόλαδο
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and mix until fully combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
2. Beat egg whites and salt to the stiff peak stage.
Beat together egg yolks and sugar and add to the yeast mixture and beat well. Beat in olive oil, and remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Stir in egg whites to distribute thoroughly. Add flour slowly, mixing or kneading with hands until each addition is completely mixed in. The dough should be very dense, but don't use all the flour if not needed.
3. Form the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, cover with a clean towel, and set in a warm place to rise for about 3 hours, until doubled in size.
4. Poke the dough with fingers to deflate (do not "punch down") and knead for 5 minutes. Form into one or two round loaves and place in one large or two smaller round baking pans lined with greased baking parchment paper. Cover with clean towels, set in a warm place, and allow to rise for 2 hours more, until doubled in size.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
With a fork, beat together the egg yolk and water, and brush the top of the loaf (or loaves) with this egg wash. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake at 350°F (190°C) for 30 to 40 minutes, until dark golden.