This traditionally dairy-free sweet bread (tsoureki) was made during the winter months when eggs and butter were less available, using Autumn harvested pumpkins. Greek sweetbreads are most often braided and have a moist, denser crumb than regular table bread as well as being just slightly sweet. This one is especially flavorful and amazing all on its own or slathered with your favorite jam. And don’t be afraid of making your own bread – it’s not difficult at all and this is a great recipe to start your homemade bread making career with!
Tsoureki: Greek Pumpkin Sweetbread [Vegan]
10 thick slices
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lukewarm water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup canned or mashed pumpkin
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In a cereal-sized bowl, mix the water with a tiny pinch of sugar (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let this sit for 10 minutes and stir to completely combine.
- Measure out your flour in a large mixing bowl, scoop out a deep well in the center and set aside.
- When 10 minutes are up for yeast mixture, add in 2 tablespoons of set aside flour along with salt and mix until you get a thickish paste. Cover and let this rise for 30 minutes and you’ll have a bubbly, beautiful, sweet-smelling ball of yeast in no time!
- Now, while your yeast is proofing, mix together the mashed pumpkin, spices, and sugar in a medium bowl until sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in oil and combine well. Add orange juice, zest, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine completely and set aside.
- When yeast has fully proofed, get out your flour bowl and pour in the pumpkin mixture and then the yeast into the well. Mix all of this together until, after about 3-4 minutes, it comes together in a rough, crumbly dough. Knead the dough for approximately 8-10 minutes until it becomes a smooth ball. This is based on kneading by hand.
- Place kneaded dough ball back into bowl, cover with cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough should almost, but not quite, double in size.
- Once risen, turn dough out onto clean counter/surface, knead for just a minute and cut dough into two equal pieces. Try to use no or minimal flour when rolling out dough. Roll each piece in a rope of about 18-20-inches long. Lay the 2 ropes next to each other, pinch them together at the top and twist the ropes into one braided loaf. Gently transfer braided loaf onto a sheet pan, cover and allow to rise in warm place for a final 30 minutes.
- Place a cast iron pan of stones on the oven bottom oven rack, just above the heating element and turn oven to 400°F and then bring down to 350°F before placing bread in the oven. This way, while the dough is in its final rise, the stones are heating heating heating away – 45 minutes to an hour is more than enough time.
- Fill a small pot with 1-1 1/2 cups of water and keep close to the oven. When you’re braided loaf is risen and ready to bake, quickly place the pan into the oven a bit off to the side of the pan of stones beneath it. Then, again quickly, pour the pot of water over the pan of stone releasing a ton of steam into the oven and super quick close the oven door tightly. You will now have the crust of crusts!
- Once risen, lightly brush risen braid with sunflower oil and bake in 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes. The loaf should be high, a beautiful golden brown and the bottom should be just lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before enjoying.