Whosever idea it was to fill tsoureki with chocolate was a GENIOUS! Good luck eating it plain anymore!
1 cube fresh yeast (25g)
50ml lukewarm water
550g all purpose flour
100g melted butter
100ml lukewarm milk
2 eggs, beaten
zest of 2 oranges
1 tsp mahlab
1 tsp cardamom
½-1 tsp mastic (powder or crushed)
For the Filling:
200g bakers chocolate, shavings or chips
6 tbsp praline spread
For the glaze:
a few drops of water
In a small bowl, break up the yeast cube with your hands, and add 1 tbsp sugar. Pour in the lukewarm water (roughly 35°C) and stir well to be sure the yeast becomes fully diluted. Add a little bit of flour from the 550g allotted above, stirring well until the liquid becomes a thick batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for about 20 minutes so the yeast can activate. You should observe bubbles on the surface of the liquid.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit. Pour the lukewarm butter into your mixer along with the rest of the sugar, the beaten egg, the orange zest, the mastic and the spices. Mix. Next pour in the flour and the yeast mixture. Set your mixer to a low speed and mix for 1 minute. You may want to use the lid to your mixer at this point. Slowly add the lukewarm milk to the mixture, and increase the mixer speed. Mix for 5 additional minutes. The dough is ready when it becomes very pliable and does not stick to your fingers. Form a big ball with the dough and place it back in the mixer. Let it sit for 1 hour in a warm spot to rise.
Once the dough has fully risen, divide it in thirds. Knead them on a floured surface and work them into three long rolls. Then roll them flat with your rolling pin. Spread 2 tbsps of the praline spread alone the center of each flattened roll. Sprinkle some bakers chocolate along the center of each as well. You can mix up the types of chocolate you use, white, milk or dark. It’s up to you! Next horizontally roll your three dough pieces and be sure they all close fully. Then gently twist each one like a ringlet.
Connect the three tubes at one end and loosely braid them, connecting them at the other end. If the braid work is difficult you can also bake them in a circular shape. See below. If you chose the braid, then place your braided tsoureki on a baking sheet covered with wax paper or on a non-stick baking sheet and brush on the egg mixture (see below), and bake uninterrupted for 55 minutes. If you chose the circular shape, then use a round donut shaped cake pan instead. Grease it and cover it with wax paper. Place your raw tsoureki into the cake pan and cover it with a towel. Let it sit for a few minutes so it can rise.
Brush the surface of the raw tsoureki with a beaten egg mixed with a few drops of water. Let the dough sit for a few minutes more to rise further and then pop it in the oven at 170°C for 45 minutes, or until it’s golden brown. Leaving the oven on, remove the tsoureki from the oven and take it out of the pan. Remove the wax paper and place it back into the oven for 10 additional minutes. The tsoureki should keep its shape by now.