Holiday desserts

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

Vegan Greek Easter Tsoureki with coconut milk – fluffy and fragrant

For most people -religious or not- Easter means the celebration of Spring and life and with my mind I think that this should mean a celebration without sacrifices and violence but with colors, flowers and joy for human and non-human animals. So today I am very excited to share with you my vegan recipe for my favorite traditional Greek tsoureki, made only with plant-based ingredients! Easter tsoureki – a traditional brioche-like bread loaded with butter and eggs- is exactly what I was looking forward to eat during Easter as a child and I imagine I was not the only one. In my family, as in most Greek homes, we usually prepared several loaves a couple of days before Easter. After letting them cool overnight, we would wrap them with a transparent film and we waited anxiously to enjoy thick slices of our favorite sweet bread during the Easter day.

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

After I became a vegan, I was very much involved in making different types of homemade breads and bread-rolls and among other things, I experimented several times, using different recipes and ingredients, in order to get a vegan tsoureki just the way I wanted it – fluffy, fragrant, chewy, with a nice texture and a freshness that could be retained for several days after baking. Finally I came to the recipe I wanted to and so in the last few years, the days before Easter our house is filled with the smell of the baked sweet bread, with the aromas of mastiha and cardamon and for several days we enjoy this delicious bread every morning. My joy is indescribable every time I take a slice of tsoureki and I pull it apart just to see how it separates into strands, every time I push its surface a little bit just to feel the fluffiness, in every bite when it melts in my mouth and its amazing taste takes me back to my childhood. Actually making the perfect vegan tsoureki is not that difficult but there are some secrets that I’m going to share with you. First of all we have to choose the right flour. In Greece you can find packaged flour special for tsoureki and I guess that in other countries there must be a flour special for brioche (but even if you cannot find it I have the solution, just keep on reading!). Second we have to knead the dough like a lot, in order to make gluten develop and get that nice strands – one main characteristic of this sweet bread , third it’s extremely important to use the right amount of yeast and last but not least, we have to add the coconut oil or the vegan butter in the right time and with the right way (see the instructions).

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

Sometimes I like to add stuffing inside my tsoureki. Usually we prefer chestnut jam or sliced fresh apples and cinnamon (apple-pie stuffing), as I did in one of the two loaves I made this time. You can also stuff with chocolate or a vegan nutella – all these things are going to add to the recipe and it’s not too complicated to try!

One more thing I really appreciate about vegan tsoureki as with vegan brioche and especially in this particular recipe is the absence of animal-derived ingredients that allows the aromas of spices to emanate and combine perfectly with the distinctive essence of coconut. Moreover the yeast and gluten work much better to give volume to the baked product and most importantly all the natural flavors explode beautifully in your palate!

Enjoy baking!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) lukewarm full-fat coconut milk, homemade or from tin
  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) lukewarm water (or additional plant-based milk)
  • 1 cup (150-160 g) raw cane brown sugar
  • 1 level tsp dry yeast
  • 8 drops of natural mastic oil
  • 1 tsp ground mahlepi
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil + 1 tablespoon extra coconut oil or sunflower oil for greasing the bowl (we can also use vegan margarine)
  • 4 1/4 cups (625 g) flour for tsoureki or brioche *

for brushing & sprinkling

  • 2-3 tbsp coconut milk or soy milk
  • almond flakes or coconut flakes

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. In a cup stir the yeast with the lukewarm water (or plant-based milk) and one tablespoon of flour and allow for about fifteen minutes in a warm place. If the yeast is active, you will see tiny, dense bubbles appearing on the surface of the cup. Because we put a small amount of yeast we do not expect too many to form, but these few are the indication that the yeast works!
2. In a bowl or (preferably) in a strong mixer add the lukewarm coconut milk, the yeast mixture, the salt and the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the spices, the mastic oil and the flour in 4-5 doses by kneading very well each time to activate gluten. This way you’ll get an elastic, soft dough that does not stick to hands, without adding more flour than what is really needed.
3. Form a ball with the dough, grease a bowl with a little coconut oil and put it in. Press the dough with your hands to expand, melt the coconut oil (it should not be too hot) and pour spoonfuls of oil over the dough, pulling and folding each time until all the oil is absorbed. At this point, do not knead but only pull and fold in order to create “layers” of oil and dough that will give an amazing consistency to your final baked good. Alternatively, put the dough on an oiled surface, dip our hands in the melted coconut oil and press over the dough to spread it. Fold the four sides like an envelope, re-dip the hands into the oil and press the dough again. Repeat the process until all of the coconut oil is used. Cover it with a humid towel or clear film and let it rise and double in volume for 2-3 hours in a warm place (eg in the oven at 40 ° C together with a bowl of water that will provide the essential moisture).
4. When the dough is ready, press it to deflate and form a ball. Divide it into two equal parts (or four depending on how many cords you want in your breads). Roll the pieces of dough gently into cords. I made two large cords, folded each one in the middle and made two “plaits” with two cords each. Place the breads carefully on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper. You can put each tsoureki on its own non-stick paper so it’s easier to move it if necessary. Brush them with plenty of milk.
5. Put the breads in a lightly warm oven at 40 ° C along with a bowl of water and allow them to double in volume. It will take about 45 minutes. If you want you can carefully and softly brush them with milk one more time to get a more shiny result (I forgot to do it this time!).
6. Bake at 200 oC degrees for about 40-45 minutes or until they get a nice golden brown color.
7. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

 

Stuffed tsoureki

Follow the whole procedure but when you make your cords use a rolling pin to roll each cord out vertically until about 10 cm wide and spread uniformly on the one side of the strip the filling of your choice, leaving 2 cm from each end to seal it. Then fold in a roll, seal the edges well and form your tsoureki. For my stuffing I used one peeled red apple cut into slices mixed with 1 tbsp of brown sugar and a pinch of ground cinnamon.

* Note: If you cannot find a special flour for brioche or tsoureki, you can use all-purpose flour but you will substitute half a cup of it with an equal amount of gluten flour (the same flour that we use to make seitan).

Greek vegan Easter tsoureki with coconut milk - Πασχαλινό vegan - νηστίσιμο τσουρέκι με γάλα καρύδας - Vegan in Athens

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Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) -Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Fragrant Vegan Vasilopita – New Year’s cake

Today I want to share with you my vegan recipe for the traditional vasilopita which is technically a cake but for many it is considered the most important cake of the year! New Year’s vasilopita (Saint Basil’s cake) is part of our traditions with a history that arises from the very distant past according to several folklorists. In popular tradition, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Basil of Caesarea. According to one story, Basil called on the Roman Citizens Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family so he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) -Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

One of the several things that makes vasilopita so special is that it contains a hidden coin (or a dry bean!) which is supposed to give good luck to the receiver. A second thing is that vasilopita is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1. Nowadays, on New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. The coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. We always cut a piece for our dog, Petra, or any other animal that may share our house, but as dogs cannot consume sugar we eat her cake and give her a special appropriate treat instead :).

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

But let’s go back to our recipe! Since we are not talking about any cake but the official cake of the year, the recipe of vasilopita should be successful and delicious. Unlike common belief, it is not the use of special animal-derived ingredients the secret of its success but the use of fresh, fragrant, plant-based, natural ingredients that give an amazing flavor and taste to our cake such as the zest and juice of freshly picked, organic oranges. Nearly each year, I like to make this easy vegan vasilopita which is sooooo fluffy and amazing that no one has ever noticed that it is 100% plant-based. For my recipe I use sunflower oil -or the oil of your choice- and to add flavor, a generous amount of lemon and orange zest – both of which can of course be replaced by shredded mastic, cinnamon and cloves. A small secret to give an extra boost of taste and texture is the addition of a small amount of grated coconut to my dough.

So good luck to your vasilopita and many wishes for a compassionate and peaceful new year.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for a 22-24 cm diameter tray)

  • 1 1/2 cup plant-based milk
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • the zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of dry shredded coconut
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or dried fruit finely chopped (optional)

for decorating
1 / 2-1 cup coconut flour or powdered sugar

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Method
1. Put in a bowl the sugar, the milk and the oil and mix with a hand mixer for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the juice and zest, baking powder and soda and mix until they are fully incorporated.
2. Sift the flour and pour it into the mixture gradually, mixing continuously at low speed until fully incorporated.
3. Add the coconut and walnuts or fruits and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula.
4. Pour the mixture into a greased ana floured baking tray. Roll a coin (or a dry bean) to a baking sheet or foil and immerse it in the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 ° C for about 50-55 minutes or until it is golden brown. Allow to cool, remove from the mold, sprinkle with powdered sugar or coconut flour and serve after midnight!

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Note: It is advisable not to open the oven door at least for the first half an hour of baking to prevent your cake from losing its volume and fluffyness To make sure it’s properly baked inside, immerse a toothpick into the center into the center of the cake after 50 minutes of baking. If it comes out clean, then it is ready, otherwise bake it for a while -five more minutes should be enough.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

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Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Crunchy, vegan & gluten free almond snowball cookies (Christmas kourabiedes)

Christmas is about love and compassion to all creatures, human and non-human. Simply by making conscious choices regarding our personal shopping, the gifts we choose as well as our Christmas recipes (vegan recipes that do not contain animal-derived ingredients are harmless and peaceful, just as christmas should be!), we can transform ourselves, our lives to that light and the love we call for. It’s not difficult, it’s not unhealthy, it’s not expensive. It’s just a way of life.

As I’ m a little bit obsessed with baking, these days I experiment with new vegan recipes for my favorite Christmas baked goods. In order to be aligned with our traditions, these days I like to bake vegan kourabiedes (traditional Greek shortbread) and vegan melomakarona (vegan Christmas small no-honey balls) not only for my family but also for our friends, neighbors, colleagues. More or less I know what my friends and family prefer or what special diet each one follows and so I adapt my recipes accordingly.

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

As some of my beloved persons do not consume gluten, when I prepare their Christmas batch, I choose to make either gluten-free and vegan melomakarona, or these crunchy snow balls or kourabiedes, made with vegan butter, lemon zest and a mix of organic corn flour and whole rice flour. In fact, although we consume gluten, this recipe is so delicious that I usually make one more batch for us too (two or three of them are left since the other day 🙂). Moreover, instead of dusting them with the icing sugar, I use coconut or almond flour which makes them even more delectable!

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

When I make baked goods that call for butter, I like to substitute it with homemade vegan butter which works amazingly in baking, tastes amazing and is much healthier than most store-bought vegan butters out there. The one I made this time contains olive oil and coconut oil, both of which are resistant to baking. To anticipate any question, no, olive oil does not alter the taste of the vegan butter to a point that is unpleasant as the amount used is relatively small and of course coconut oil does the magic. They work perfectly together!

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for 30 small kourabiedes)

  • 120 g vegan butter (homemade or store-bought)
  • 140 g (about 3/4 cup) of whole rice flour
  • 140 g (1 cup) whole corn flour
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar (of choice)
  • 2 tbsp cognac or whiskey
  • 2 tbsp plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest from one lemon
  • vanilla (I used 1 tsp natural, homemade extract)
  • 3/4 cups almonds finely chopped

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

for dusting

  • natural rose water (optional)
  • coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Method
1. Melt vegan butter and pour it in a bowl along with the sugar, cognac and milk. Stir well until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the baking powder, zest, corn flour and rice flour and knead until a soft, non-sticky dough has been formed. Add the almonds and knead a little more. Let the mixture in a cool place for at least half an hour to rest.
3. Preheat the oven to 170 oC. Take walnut-sized pieces of dough and shape small, thick discs or balls. You can also make bigger kourabiedes (in this case double up the recipe to get around thirty pieces). Line a baking tin with baking shit and arrange your kourabiedes, leaving at least two centimeters between them as they increase in volume during baking.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Spray with a little rose water (if you’ ll use) while still warm and let them cool completely in the baking dish (if you try to get them out while hot they will fall apart).
5. When completely cool, sprinkle with coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar and serve.

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

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