by Melpomeni Matthews
I was named after my beautiful “γιαγιά” (grandmother), Melpomeni, and I’m a second generation Greek, living in Melbourne. My father is from the Peloponnese and my mother from the Ionian island, Kefalonia, and both have always taught me to be proud of my identity and my Greek heritage. I’m the oldest of five, and married into a large Greek-Cypriot family, which means our family gatherings are always big and celebratory and involve lots and lots of food. I have two amazing children, who both love to cook with me at home! My family means everything to me and they’re the ultimate reason I love Greek food, cooking and sharing recipes.
Often we say Greeks “live to eat” and not “eat to live”. I realise that in fact we do both. I believe that the love you put on a plate is a true reflection of who you are. I hope to inspire as many home cooks as I can, as I believe cooking at home should be kept sacred and something children and the next generation should aspire to.
Tsoureki cross buns
It’s that time of year, where almost every bakery in Australia is baking up their delicious version of hot crossed buns. Though for me, nothing says Easter more than your home smelling of Hot Cross Buns and of course Tsouréki (Greek Easter bread).
For years now I have been baking up the best of both worlds with my little ones over their Easter break. Unlike the traditional Easter buns, these sticky buns don’t have the heavy spice and density of hot cross buns, instead, vanilla and mahlepi are used to scent a buttery dough, which is light and airy Tsouréki and brightened with orange zest. My pull on the traditional Easter treat somewhere into the midst of all the Greek Easter baking. And what I enjoy the most with them is a dollop of pure Greek bergamot marmalade that marries with the orange zest of the buns to perfection! Heaven!
* ~ 4 cups plain flour
* 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
* 1/4 cup caster sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons mahlepi spice and/or a good pinch of grounded mastiha
* 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
* 1/2 pinch of natural sea salt
* 1 1/2 cups dried mixed fruit (raisins, currants, orange peel)
* 40g butter
* 2 tbsp vegetable oil, + 2 tbsp for kneading
* 300ml milk
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten (room temp)
* 1 tbsp fresh orange rind
* 1/2 cup plain flour
* ~ 5 tablespoons water
* 1/3 cup water
* 3 tablespoons caster sugar
SERVE WITH* Pure 85% Fruit Greek bergamot marmalade, Geodi
1. Hold 1/2 cup flour to the side, combine remaining flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla, mahlepi, salt and dried fruit in a large bowl. Melt butter and 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk and orange rind. Heat for 1 minute, or until lukewarm. Add the warm milk mixture and eggs to the flour mixture. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form a very soft dough, use remaining flour as required.
2. Using the remaining vegetable oil wet your hands and knead the dough for 10 minutes in the bowl, adding more oil to your hands as you go, until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 1/2 - 2hours, or until the dough doubles in size. ( I wrap my bowl with a tea towel and proof it in a warm, not hot oven).
3. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C or 170˚C fan-force.
4. Make flour paste: Mix flour and water together until smooth, adding more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small snap-lock bag, snip off 1 corner and pipe paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through and golden in colour.
5. Make glaze: Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to the boil, ~ 3-4 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve buns warm or at room temperature.
6. Enjoy these beauties with lots of bergamot marmalade for a heavenly indulgence like no other. Kali Orexi and Happy Easter!