Tsoureki (also known as Greek “Easter” bread)
½ cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
1¾ tsp. active dry yeast (1 package)
2 tsp. mahlab (malhepi) *
1 tsp. ground mastic
4 large eggs, divided
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. kosher salt, divided
5 cups bread flour
3 large hard-cooked eggs, dyed red
1 Tbsp. water
¼ cup raw sesame seeds
* Like many Greek and Middle Eastern recipes, this Easter bread is flavored with mastic and mahlab (or malhepi), which can be found in Greek and Middle Eastern markets or online. Both may be replaced by orange zest, though with different effect.
Combine milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Combine mahlab, mastic, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a mortar, grind to a fine powder, and add to yeast. Add 3 eggs, butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Return to bowl, dust with flour, cover with plastic, and rise at room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface, divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each into a rope, about 1″–2″ thick. Form the ropes into a 3-strand braid and set on prepared pan. Tuck hard-boiled eggs into the braid, cover loosely with plastic, and rise again for 30 minutes.
Whisk together remaining egg, 1 pinch salt, and 1 tablespoon water. Brush gently onto the top of the risen loaf; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 35–45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.