Greek Lent is almost here! I normally just give up one thing (coffee, cheese, chocolate…) but this year I’m going to do it properly, I’m going to basically be vegan for 50 days. OK, so it’s not as straight forward as that, there are some days you can eat fish, and some days you can’t eat olive oil, but I’ll turn to my yiayia for guidance. I still find it quite confusing. Anyway, I’m going to try, and I’ll share my progress with you all and hopefully find and create some exciting recipes in the process
So, the bread. The inspiration for this recipe, tahinopita, is one of my favourite things about Greek Easter. Traditionally eating during times of lent and fasting, you can buy individual ones all year round from Greek and Turkish bakers (or make it yourself of course). But growing up it was always eaten around Easter time, due to its lack of animal products, and I just love it. The soft dough, caramelised crispy edges, and gooey middle (a bit like frangipane)… insanely moreish.
Most commonly known for its addition to houmous, savoury dishes and dressings, tahini is brilliant for baking with. Sweetened, like in this recipe, it has a peanut butter vibe, and works wonderfully with honey, maple syrup or brown sugars. (Also a little bit in a smoothie with banana, honey, milk and cinnamon is ridiculously good). The most complicated thing about this recipe is making the bread, which isn’t difficult at all, I promise. The filling and ring part is even easier, and is perfect for a rainy day at home. I hope you like it as much as I do.
SWEET TAHINI EASTER BREAD (Plaited Tahinopita)
Serves 10 – 12
- 600g strong white bread flour
- 1 x 7g sachet of yeast
- Olive oil
- 130g soft light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt (or other flakey sea salt – if using regular fine sea salt, use less)
- 100g tahini
- 6 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds (black if you can get them)
Measure 400ml warm water into a measuring jug and whisk in the yeast and 30g of the brown sugar. Leave it to one side for 5 minutes. Stir 1 1/4 teaspoons of the sea salt into the flour then make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir the flour into the liquid with a fork until all mixed together – you’re looking for a slightly damp dough. If it feels dry add a splash more water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 – 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Grease a mixing bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and pop in the dough, turning it over in the oil so it gets lightly coated all over. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm spot for around an hour, or until doubled in size.
When the dough is ready make the filling by mixing together the tahini, remaining 100g of soft light brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of honey (or maple syrup), ground cinnamon and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it for a couple of minutes, and then gently roll it out to a large rectangle, around 55cm x 30cm. Evenly dot and spread the tahini mixture all over the dough (it will be too thick to spread, so you’ll need to use your hands for this bit – poking it and prodding it into place), and don’t worry if it isn’t completely covered, it’ll spread as it bakes. Roll the dough into a large swiss roll, starting with one of the long edges, as tightly as you can. Then slice the whole thing in half lengthways.
Press together two of the ends and then plait the two pieces so that the cut side is always facing up.
Once you’ve finished plaiting the dough join the two ends together to form a ring, and place it on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Leave it to one side for 30 minutes to prove again. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180.
When the dough has finished its second prove, drizzle the dough with 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Pop the tray in the middle of the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden all over and cooked through. When it is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack and drizzling with the remaining tablespoon of honey or maple syrup. Perfect any time of the day, with a small cup of strong Greek coffee or a mug of tea.