Mediterranean Sweet Easter Bread Recipe, an egg and buttery rich brioche-like bread, with flavors from Greece or Lebanon, is our favorite bread for feast days and holidays.
Mediterranean Old World Traditions
Since I was a young teen, I have made this bread at Easter time, each and every year. Why? Tradition!
Having grown up in the Eastern Orthodox church, traditions run deep.
Consequently, food is celebrated abundantly, especially bread.
This sweet bread, is a lovely way of carrying on an old world tradition.
Mediterranean Easter Table
As in many parts of the Mediterranean, a style of eating, known as Meze, is spread to celebrate a variety of favorite dishes.
Typically, a special bread is made for the occasion, to compliment the dishes being served.
My Mediterranean sweet bread, is more rich, rather than sweet, and would compliment any Meze spread.
I would venture to say, that I have as many recipes for bread as I do for a main course, probably because bread makes them special.
Therefore, you will find an abundance of bread recipes throughout my blog, just a few to entice you:
- Pita Bread – always on a Meze spread.
- Butterfly Pea Flower bread, naturally pale purple in color.
- Beetroot and Spinach braid bread, also rich in natural colors.
Family Favorite Festive Bread Recipes
The two most exciting times of the year, in a Greek or Middle Eastern home, are Easter time and the Christmas and New Year Holidays.
What wonderful unforgettable sweet smells emanate from the kitchen, as aromatic spices are showcased in our cooking!
How the family members love to linger to watch the traditional breads kneaded and shaped for the eventual baking.
Sweet Easter Bread
Traditionally this sweet bread recipe, is made for Easter and has red-dyed hard-boiled eggs popping through the top of the bread.
Unfortunately, several generations later, here in America, many traditions have faded.
However, you will always find this delicious bread on our family table, no matter what American dishes are being served with it.
While this beautiful three-strand braid, Mediterranean sweet bread is perfect eaten alone, alongside some great cheeses, it can also be showcased on a dessert table.
Although this flavor rich bread would be right at home on a dessert spread, it’s not overly sweet.
For a sweeter Mediterranean sweet treat, you might want to try:
- Baklava – traditional pastry of layered honey and nuts.
- Ouzo Cookies – shortbread-like cookies with pistachio and ouzo.
- Date Cookies – Middle Eastern cookies made with a farina dough and filled with dates.
- Tahini Custard Pie – A unique pie I created for The Great American Recipe on PBS with a sesame seed crust and tahini custard filling.
How To Make This Mediterranean Sweet Bread Recipe
While the process of making this bread is no different than making most of my Homemade Breads, the ingredients are.
Since the base of the milk mixture has sugar and butter, it needs to be warmed to dissolve the sugar along with the added Mastic or Mahlab.
Once cooled, the milk mixture can be placed into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment, and the beaten eggs can be added.
Commence, then, to adding all purpose flour, or bread flour if you prefer, a little bit at a time until a soft dough forms.
Transfer to a large, greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and place dough in a warm spot, for the first rise.
Finishing Touches On The Sweet Bread
Once the dough doubles in size, transfer to a lightly floured surface, cut into three equal parts, and prepare a three-strand braid.
Place dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a towel for the second rise.
Just before baking, the dough is brushed with an egg wash, which creates a beautiful golden brown finish and bakes to perfection.
Additional options: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or even the dyed eggs can be placed on top, before it goes into the oven.
Another option, is to shape the bread dough into individual sweet bread buns!
Flavors Of A Mediterranean Sweet Bread
Specifically, the flavors pertinent to any regional cooking are what set the recipes apart. The dominant flavor of Mastic, a resin from a type of pine tree in Greece, reminds me of juniper berries in taste.
While Mahlab, a cherry kernel inside the cherry pits, have a nutty, sweet flavor.
Both flavors are popular among Mediterranean regions and throughout the Middle East.
However, there are substitutes that can be made, using fennel seed, orange zest, or simply almond extract.
What To Serve With Mediterranean Sweet Bread
Whether this bread is being served with a sit-down dinner, a Meze spread or just a quiet slice with a cup of coffee, it will be memorable.
However, I’d be delighted to suggest to you, family favorites of ours!
Naturally, lamb is always on the menu in a Mediterranean kitchen and that can be anything from a gorgeous rack of Lamb Chops, a winning dish I made on The Great American Recipe on PBS, to a slow cooked Tajine.
For a Meze spread, with lots of good quality cheeses and olives, there’s always a serving of hummus to spread on the bread.
Let’s not forget how delicious a spread of smokey Baba Ganoush would taste on this rich Mediterranean sweet bread.
But first… let’s make this fabulous bread!
- Mahlab or Mastic – aromatic flavors from either a seed or resin
- Sesame seeds
- Large mixing bowl or a stand mixer and dough attachment
- Wooden spoon
- Kitchen towel – to cover the dough while rising
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- Small saucepan
Mediterranean Sweet Easter Bread Recipe
- Large mixing bowl clay works best
- Baking sheet pan
- 1 cup Milk
- 3/4 cup Sugar reserve 1 tsp
- 8 oz Melted Butter
- 1 tbsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Mahlab or Mastic, crushed or fennel seeds
- 3 Eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp Active Yeast
- 1/2 cup Lukewarm Water
- 8 cups Flour more as needed
- 1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
- 1 Egg yolk for egg wash
- 1 tbsp Milk for egg wash
- In a small saucepan heat the milk until bubbles form; remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, melted butter, salt, Mastic or Mahlab. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix warm water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let set 10 minutes.
- In a very large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, pour in the milk mixture, the yeast mixture and whisk in the beaten eggs. Begin to whisk in the flour, one cup at a time. When the mixture begins to thicken, continue to add flour, little at a time until it is no longer sticky. If working the dough by hand, transfer the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and continue to press and fold flour into the dough until it is no longer sticky.
- Transfer to a large, greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and place dough in a warm spot for the first rise. This dough is dense, so it might take 2 hours to rise.
- Once the dough doubles in size, transfer to a lightly floured surface, cut into three equal parts, and prepare a three-strand braid. Place dough on one, or two parchment paper lined baking sheets, cover with a kitchen towel for the second rise.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Just before baking, the dough is brushed with an egg wash, which creates a beautiful golden brown finish and bakes to perfection. Additional options, such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or even the dyed eggs can be placed on top before it goes into the oven.
- Bake for 18-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
- Keeps for a week and is fabulous for breakfast, lunch with cheese and fruit, or your favorite lamb dinner!