Tsoureki, Oversized. And Other Traditions.

Where shall I start. I made that Greek Easter bread Tsoureki based on the recipe given to me by the Greek lady living on the other side of the earth, her name is Georgia, a name that resonates, and then I have prepared this little Easter tale for you.

I’ll give you the tale first. It’s a true one, mind. And this is how it goes: 

When I was six I was a firm believer in the Easter Rabbit. Or perhaps less a believer, than a little person being reassured really that there’s things that exist in spite of us. Because as a matter of fact, once a year in spring, the Easter Rabbit would fill the nest I had prepared the other night in the hedge with nice things (such as chocolates and eggs. And golden ear studs in the shape of mice, occasionally.) Unlike Saint Nicholas, the Easter Rabbit wouldn’t ask for something in return, which raised it a tiny notch higher in my esteem. A generous chap after all, having naturally grasped the secret of giving which is to expect nothing in return (one of life’s possibly hardest lessons). 

And then my cousin almost screwed it. He was a believer in the proper sense, not one to take things for granted. On the day before Good Sunday he came trotting up with a very concerned face. In fact, he said, he believed it was all made up, the Easter Rabbit, and the eggs and stuff. He said he had it from a reliable source, having overheard a conversation between grown ups. Said they were discussing who would hide the eggs the next day and so on. I was completely, inextricably shaken. Utter disaster. Albeit, when I thought of it after lunch, it occurred to me that grown ups probably weren’t as reliable a source as he believed. They were grown ups all right, apt at lying like a rug and swallowing their own nonsense with ease. Sure they knew my cousin was hiding on the oven. Everybody knew he hid on the oven all the time. Only him as thought no one knew. Very likely, they wickedly intended to steal the Easter Rabbit’s thunder. Which wouldn’t come as a surprise to me. 

In any event, my cousin suggested to gather proofs. Very clever fellow cunningly intended to tie a piece of fine thread around the branches of the hedge where we had decorated our nests. Just about at knee height. So that any competent Easter Rabbit would pass below it (with ears cocked up, I asked, yes he said), while the grown ups would tear would they come near. But, I ventured, what if this is a very tall Easter Rabbit. And I thought of the heavy load it carried what with all us children and that in fact it was very unlikely that it was even remotely close to normal rabbit size. He pondered over this for a long while. After all it made sense. We still tied the thread around the hedge. And I think it was torn the next day. And there was chocolate and eggs in our nests and a most beautiful silver ring in mine, with an enamelled little red beetle on top. Ha! There you have it, I cried. I dearly wanted this ring and never told anybody I liked it except I wrote it on a piece of paper and put it out on the window sill for the Easter Rabbit to fetch and see to whether he could get it for me. Q.e.d. my friend. You go on believing or not it was the Easter Rabbit, but I know now. Because there’s things that exist in spite of us. 

The Tsoureki was baking in the oven while I wrote these lines. Already I had forgotten to buy the yeast that day. Thank God the boulangère, the baker woman, who passes with her shop-on-wheels every two days to deliver the most savoury croissants to our door, would sell me a block. I squeezed and mixed and folded alright, following that marvellous recipe to the letter. Except for the baking paper to be placed on top (woe is me, my Tsoureki got, well, rather dark). And let the dough rest. One hour, two hours, two hours and a half and nothing. The beast wouldn’t stir. Rising to twice the size, I say, well it obviously wasn’t intending to. Woe is me! In order to maintain at least a hint at generosity alive, I made one tress instead of two as instructed. With a most wounded expression and my brows knitted. And then this happened: The Tsoureki exploded in the oven. Boum. Thrice the size, I tell you. At least. Woe is me again. An impossibly oversized massive Easter Bread. Shameless. And incredibly tasty. I may need to practice it’s looks but that taste, well, the Greeks definitely know where it’s at.

We ate it (and the lucky neighbours and passersby). Topped with crème fraîche and quince jelly I had made last autumn. With a glass of port to keep the brisk April wind at bay. Here: