Greek Easter Bread

Jump straight to the Greek Easter Bread recipe or some baking tips.

greek easter bread

Look, even if you’re intimidated by bread, Greek Easter Bread is crazy easy and crazy delish.

I do get that bread can intimidate. There’s the rising, and the fact that yeast is a little temperamental. There’s the kneading, which needs to be done enough, and yet not too much. In this case, there’s the braiding, but that’s kinda fun.

In fact, it’s all pretty fun. This particular recipe hails from the April 2004 issue of Bon Appetit, and was part of a big Greek Easter feast. Without the red eggs, you just have a spectacularly yummy bread braid. You could also do any color eggs you want. Whatever way you bake it, you will end up with a fragrant, barely sweet, buttery puffy loaf. You don’t need more butter, but you can add some if you’re feeling especially decadent.

greek easter bread with labneh and coffee

My son, who likes few things better than ripping a piece of bread off a freshly-baked loaf, couldn’t quite get over this one. “What’s in this, Mom?”

The grated citrus peel, both lemon and orange, adds a lot of flavor. But the true secret of a wonderfully enigmatic Greek Easter Bread is mahlepi, or mahleb, aka ground dried cherry pits. You will have to venture to a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean market to find it, but you can substitute a teaspoon for 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in any baked good. While you’re there—if you’re there in the spring—look for the special red Easter egg dye. It’s stronger than the mix of beet juice, turmeric, and red food coloring that I used.

Greek Easter Bread: A Few Tips

  • 2-3 days ahead, dye hard-boiled eggs in deep red dye. Let them sit in the dye until you’re ready to bake the bread. I use 3 eggs in the bread, but to have some extra deep red eggs on hand is cool. They are really beautiful and unusual.
  • Whisk a package of yeast into 1/4 cup of warm (about 100-110º) water. Let it rest undisturbed until it gets thick and a little bubbly. If this doesn’t happen, your yeast done bit the dust. Do not proceed until you find some working yeast.
  • Exact proportions are listed in the recipe. Get out your hand held electric mixer to cream soft butter and sugar together. You’ll then beat in an egg, the citrus peel and mahleb or vanilla, warm milk, and flour. Once you get the egg in and as you add the milk, the mixture may look “broken.” In other words, the butter won’t be so smooth any more. Don’t worry; as you add the flour, first with the mixer, then with a spatula, it will all come back together in a lovely soft dough.
  • You need the dough til it’s smooth and satiny, then let it rest to rise. In theory, this should take about 1 and 1/2 to 1:45. Mine took closer to 2 1/2 hours. Don’t despair; if your yeast is live, the bread will rise. Just give it time, and keep it in a warmish place (but not the oven).
  • Gently knead the risen bread down, then separate it into 3 pieces. To make the bread into ropes, you kind of roll and pinch until you have a 24-inch rope, three times.
greek easter bread separated into ropes
  • Braiding the braid is a little more like a French braid; the video shows how I got to kind of a false start, and frankly the end is a little messy. So tweak that to your hearts content.
  • Then make the indentations for the eggs. Blot the eggs like crazy; they’ll still bleed a little, but don’t worry. Press them into the little dents you’ve made in the bread. Let rise a second time, till lovely and puffy.
greek easter bread after the second rise
  • Bake at 350º for 20 minutes, then turn the bread and bake another 10. The finished bread should be golden and make a nice hollow sound when you tap the bottom.
  • You can definitely eat this bread all by itself, but a little butter, jam, honey, quark, or labneh is also lovely. And Greek coffee on the side makes it even better. Here, it’s part of a table of Greek appetizers including Greek salad and spanikopita.

Greek Easter Bread: The Recipe

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes

Jump straight to the Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes recipe or step by step.

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepe

It’s brunch season, and if you don’t believe take a look at any of the glossy cooking magazines out there. Or, if you’re one of the cool kids who only gets recipes online, the blogs. I guess it’s the whammy of Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduation, spring time, and just kind of being ready for something sprightly on the table in general.

Meanwhile, here at good old LCF, Steve and I dug the Mushroom Arugula crepes enough that I dug up another old fave from Mr. Bert Greene, these Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes are super festive, and ridiculously easy.

And of course, you can skip the crabmeat and substitute some other kind of filling—though given that crepes are kinda delicate things, and also the strength of the Bloody Mary flavor (really a pretty great idea), you want something mild. Smoked chicken would be my go-to if I wanted a different meat, or chickpeas if I wanted a veg option.

Let’s get going.

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes: Steps

  • The great things about crepes is how easy they are to assemble; it’s the cooking that’s a little tricky, but honestly, not that big of a deal. Just throw the following in a blender: 1/4 c Bloody Mary mix, 3/4 c milk, 1 egg, 1/3 c flour—I used spelt, which is nice and fine but also has an earthy undertone, and 2 T oil. (I used avocado.) Add spices; I used 1/4 t paprika and 1 t chili powder. Blend, and let stand 30 minutes.
bloody mary crepe mix
  • While that’s going on, make your filling: Some cream cheese (I used 4 oz), crabmeat—I used an 8 oz container of lump from Whole Foods. Don’t use a can, because that stuff is no good. I also added a big minced shallot, about 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and chopped dill and cherry tomatoes. A splash of sake helped thin down the cream cheese.
Crabmeat Filling for Bloody Mary Crepes
Crabmeat Filling for Bloody Mary Crepes from Le Chou Fou
  • I decided to try a smaller pan to make my first couple of crepes. First, it was great….
Bloody Mary Crepe, pre-flip
  • ….but then, nope. The crepe was too hard to turn.
Bloody Mary Crepe Fail
  • Then I switched to the big pan, pouring in about 3 tablespoons., let the crepe bubble, then turned it. Success.
Bloody Mary Crepe Success
  • You fill up the crepe with filling, and brunch heaven is yours. Enjoy.
Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepe

Bloody Mary Crabmeat Crepes: Recipe

vegetarian reuben pizza

Vegetarian Reuben Pizza

Jump to the Vegetarian Reuben Pizza recipe or the step by step instructions.

vegetarian reuben pizza

I love a good sandwich: great bread, some spread that the bread soaks up, and a mix of vegetables to add both crunch and lush textures to complement whatever the protein is.

But it took me a long time to get with a Reuben. For years, I saw them made with pastrami, and I don’t do beef. Furthermore, not so crazy about sauerkraut. Then again, Swiss cheese with maybe smoked turkey on rye, with fresh cabbage stirred into 1000 Island dressing….it’s one of those combos that should be all wrong, but works together like a charm.

Recently, all recipes magazine featured a Reuben pizza. The crust is homemade and has rye flour, then you smear on some 1000 Island before you add corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss, and pickles. I loved the idea, just not a bread crust or the corned beef. But I thought, hmmm. I could change this into a plant-based meal that would make a groovy Meatless Monday dinner.

The particulars were pretty simple. I’ve made cauliflower pizza crust pretty often and at this point, actually prefer it to the bread version. I had some whole rye in the cupboard, boiled it up, and mixed it in. It added a nice earthy chewiness to the cauliflower, though it’s completely unnecessary. If you don’t have rye on hand, you can skip it.

cauliflower crust with added whole cooked rye

Then I marinated some tempeh and baked it in the oven. When the crust came out, I put on some homemade 1000 Island—if you have a store-bought one you like, by all means use it. Topped with the baked tempeh, plenty of sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, I baked it about 7 minutes to get the cheese all melty. Out of the oven, I topped it with carrots and dill in place of the the pickles. After all, the sauerkraut is pickle-y enough for me, and the raw carrot added a really lovely sweet crunch.

all ingredients ready for this vegetarian reuben pizza

Like a lot of my recipes, it has a number of steps, but you can easily take shortcuts, like using store-bought dressing and already marinated tempeh or tofu (or replacing it with meat if that’s your thing). You can probably buy a cauliflower crust, or use a regular bread crust if you like. But here’s how you make the whole thing from scratch, which honestly doesn’t take much time at all.

Vegetarian Reuben Pizza: Step by Step

  • Marinate your tempeh: Mix soy sauce, sake, and rice vinegar together. Slice the tempeh into strips, toss in the marinade, and let them sit while you make the other stuff. An hour or so makes sure the tempeh has some flavor and doesn’t taste like, well, tempeh.
  • Make the 1000 Island Dressing: I used this recipe, more or less, combining mayo, ketchup, chopped pickles and a little pickle brine, with chopped onions and garlic. Dash in a little hot sauce if you like.
  • Make the crust: Mix your riced cauliflower with some bread crumbs, mustard, celery seeds, caraway seeds, and, if you have it handy, cooked whole rye.
cauliflower crust with whole cooked rye
  • Bake the tempeh. I give it about 20 minutes with a flip halfway through.
baked marinated tempeh for vegetarian reuben pizza
  • Bake the crust in the oven; this only takes about 15 minutes, so you can time this with the tempeh. Get out the sauerkraut, grate the Swiss, and grate or spiralize the carrot.
  • Top the baked crust with the tempeh. Strew on some sauerkraut, then top the whole thing with cheese. Bake until melty, about 6 or 7 minutes.
  • Top the finished pizza with raw carrot and chopped dill.
vegetarian reuben pizza

The Recipe

Mushroom Arugula Crepes

Jump straight to the mushroom arugula crepes recipe or the steps.

mushroom-arugula-crepes

There was a period in, I think, the late 70s, when the crepe pan was the must-have appliance—kind of like the instant pot today.

a crepe cookbook from the 70s
How adorable is the subtitle? I think the authors want to make sure you don’t take them too literally and actually try to do anything with crepes, like wear them to a ball or patch a roof leak.

Everybody who had a respectable kitchen owned a crepe pan. It was just a round, 8 or 9-inch skillet with a perfectly flat bottom, and I know Dad rushed out and bought one. And for a few weeks we ate a lot of crepes.

I don’t have a pic of Dad cooking, but this is us sometimes in the 70s. The crepe pan is nearby..

My dad was a pancake guy, and he made excellent ones. He loved to cook; Julia Child was his girl. He’d sit in front of her PBS show and take notes. Mom got a kick out of it; she never liked cooking, and was happy to abdicate the fancy stuff to Dad. She always said, “I think he likes her because she’s so messy.” As was Dad. Stuff got spilled, experiments went wrong. But he also embodied joy and tranquility in the kitchen. I remember him focused on flipping flapjacks in our cast iron skillet, or on kneading bread with his giant powerful hands, his breathing even and deep.

As noted, Dad’s pancakes were outstanding; he made his own starter dough. But his crepe pan flirtation was brief. The issue, I think, was that, rather than fluffy pillows to absorb a blob of butter and a hearty pour of syrup, crepes by their very nature require a delicate touch. They’re also often wrapped around filling. Dad wasn’t big on cooking that involved steps. He liked to get things done in one go. Eventually, the crepe pan moved to the back of the cupboard and the pancakes returned.

Mushroom Arugula Crepes: Steps

I didn’t try cooking crepes for years, and in the late 80s, when I began to learn to cook, they were out of fashion. But when I whipped up my first batch for brunch, I was stunned at how easy they were.

Recently, I bought some mushrooms and had no idea why. So I thought, as I often do, what would Bert Greene do? If you’ve spent any time here, first, thank you. Second, you know Bert Greene is one of my cooking heroes. I stumbled on this recipe, which incorporated mushrooms and watercress. And while I had no watercress—alas, because watercress is amazing—I did have arugula. I thought, mushroom arugula crepes. Whoa. Also, why the hell not?

mushroom arugula crepes ingredients

Greene loved to experiment, and over the course of his cookbooks, you find lots of variations on the crepe theme. And due to the fact that hardly anyone outside of Normandy eats crepes any more, I thought, wow, that sounds good. High time for a renaissance, don’t you think?

Crepe batter isn’t hugely different from pancake batter, though it’s thinner. It also lends itself to flavoring and improvisation. This version sautés mushrooms before throwing them in the blender. There, they go together in a flash, achieving the perfect aerated consistency, and a pretty pale green color.

mushroom arugula crepes batter

You pour out a few tablespoons on a hot pan, swirl the pan to get the crepe thin. Let it sit for a minute or so….

mushroom arugula crepes after pouring

…then flip it. Less than a minute later, it’s done, and you place it on a parchment-lined plate, run the end of a stick of butter over your pan, and pour in the next batch.

mushroom arugula crepes after flipping

Now, Mr. Greene said the mix would yield 12 crepes. I don’t have a crepe pan, just a big flat skillet. So I couldn’t do quite the fancy wrist spin I could have done with Dad’s old crepe pan, due to the pan’s weight. I ended up with 6 crepes that are a little thicker, but so, so tasty. I filled them with the remainder of the mushrooms sauteed and dressed up with more arugula and a touch of blue cheese since I didn’t have sour cream. Oh, and I threw on a little bacon, which is totally optional.

mushroom-arugula-crepes

Crepes are a luxurious lovely meal. Your eaters should feel thoroughly pampered; you may want to insist people recline on chaises upholstered in deep red velvet while you play louche German songs in the background. There’s zero need to tell anyone how easy they are. A good thing, as, once you serve a batch, you’re likely to get requests for more.

The Recipe

meatball blueprint

The Meatball Blueprint

Jump straight to the Meatball Blueprint recipe. Or to the Meatball Blueprint step by step. Otherwise, stick around for an autobiographical ramble, secure in the knowledge that a recipe DOES appear at the end of this post.

I am just now returning from south South America—Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, to be precise, and mostly Buenos Aires. For most Yanquis, when you think Argentina, you think beef, at least if you are a lot of people. Also probably tango, and….well, maybe not much else.

Our school was 1 block from the Casa Rosada, or Argentine version of the US White House—the Pink House!! My pic, btw, shot with an iphone; the sky is That Blue.

Well, let’s save tango for another post. But let’s deal with the whole meat thing now. I do not eat beef, and I’ve mostly avoided it throughout my life. (Save for an unfortunate decade that featured a monthly Taco Bell freakout. I would hang my head, but no longer do shame.) From an earlier age, I hated, hated, hated the texture, and wasn’t super thrilled about the flavor, for that matter. Mom used to cook it a lot, because Dad loved it. To this day, the smell of roast beef makes me want to vomit, something I once did at the dinner table when Mom, doing her best Joan Crawford, insisted I eat a slice. Boy, did I get a talking-to for that!

Nonetheless, when people find out that in the course of the past two years I’ve spent over 2 months in The Wonderland of Edible Cows, they get this sort of weird, glazed-over look of bliss on their faces, envying my good fortune being around all those steaks.

Well, I didn’t eat meat while I was in Argentina. Meanwhile, what the hell does this have to do with meatballs?

Why Ground Meat?

Truth is, I didn’t eat meat in Argentina because I still hate the texture of any red meat that isn’t ground up or turned into bacon. But I do like good, spiced-up ground meat, which explains the whole Taco Bell business. And I love a good meatball or meatloaf even more. I genuinely don’t feel right about eating beef, though I’m not going to get all preachy here when there are already so many people who do that much better. Then again, ground turkey and chicken taste like total meh unless you season the hell out of them. Hence, they make a fine go-to for taco filling, as well as being perfectly versatile on the meatball/meatloaf front, open to pretty much whatever flavors you want to throw in.

Whatever protein you choose, meatballs and meatloaf are super simple to make, and you can vary them endlessly—which is why I call this a meatball blueprint rather than a recipe, which implies you follow it to the letter.

My approach is specifically designed for poultry, but you can easily swap in what you want. I have yet to find a non-animal meatball that really works, btw, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of vegans from tackling the issue. (Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a favorite spokesperson on this particular front; here’s a recipe of hers for lentil meatballs that sound pretty darn good.)

meatball blueprint, a vegan alternative
Issa’s lentil meatballs, recipe linked above. Alas, this pic is from 2011 before everyone had become a mad-skill food photographer. But a recipe from Issa has never let me down.

Here’s how you do it.

The Ingredients

  • The meat. As noted, mine is ground chicken or turkey thigh, because the thighs are fattier, which means: more flavor. Many people mix meat here, using some beef and some pork, and if you do mammals, go ahead. Honestly, birds are just fine with me.
  • Crumbs. Along with the egg, the addition of bread is what makes a meatball/loaf a meatball/loaf. The two substances work to bind the mix of meat into one coherent thing. According to Jane and Michael Stern in their marvelous Square Meals, “Extenders give the loaf that distinctive pulpy texture that soaks up gravy so well.” Extrapolate that to whatever sauce your meatballs are soaking in. Stale bread is classic, but panko, smashed crackers, rolled oats, or some cooked leftover rice or quinoa also work beautifully.
meatball blueprint grains
Be sure to cook the quinoa, or you will have little rocks in your meatballs. All the other stuff is fine as long as you soak it.
  • If you do choose a dry crumb option, be absolutely sure to soak the crumbs in a little liquid first. Milk—unsweetened plant milk is fine—is as classic as stale bread, but also consider broth or a mix of broth with a little sherry, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever you want to flavor your meatloaf. If you have leftover soup or some salsa, they work pretty great. And even if you use a pre-cooked grain, which doesn’t need to soak, a 1/4 cup or so of a thicker soup or tomato sauce add flavor and moisture.
  • Onion and herbs: Yes. You need to finely chop some kind of onion, whether it’s green, red, or yellow, to add to your mix. Also whatever herbs you have on hand, as long as they fit the flavor profile. Parsley goes with everything. Dill, surprisingly, works beautifully in combination with soy sauce, especially if you mix it with cilantro (it’s the fennel/anise undertone). Basil, sage, tarragon: all will work, in pretty much any mix.
meatball blueprint veggies
  • Optional but very excellent chopped vegetables: You can make your meatballs/loaf even healthier by chopping any greens you have lying around very fine and adding them to the mix as well. Note the cabbage in the above pic, as well as the egg.
  • Egg: For binding.
  • Salt: Essential, especially with poultry, which is super bland.
  • Seasonings: yes, the spices that fit with your sauce, but also any thicker sauce, like gochujang or good ol’ ketchup. You only need a spoonful of either of the latter, but man, do they add a nice flavor hit.

Meatball Blueprint: The Steps

  • Assemble your ingredients (see the list above).
  • Chop the veggies.
  • Mix everything together.
meatball blueprint mix
  • Form into meatballs, or push into a loaf pan or crock pot.
meatball blueprint meatballs
It is super hard to make meatballs look pretty. Take heart, and go to the next picture.
  1. For meatballs, cook about 15-20 minutes at 400º. If you’re going to add the meatballs to a sauce that you’ll simmer for any length of time, you can go a little short, because they will cook more in the sauce. For meatloaf, about 50 minutes for a pound of meat (before the add-ins) at 375º. In a crockpot, about 2 hours on medium does the trick.
  2. Enjoy! I’ll be adding this recipe in a quick minute; it’s chicken meatballs with zoodles, carrot spirals, and chopped cabbage in a sesame sauce. But you can put these babies in anything.
meatball blueprint final

The Meatball Blueprint: The Recipe

best damn chicken title card

The Best Damn Chicken

As I recently noted in the recipe for Tea-Smoked Chicken, I want to like chicken. But most of the time…I just don’t. People always go on about how easy it is to cook, but they never mention the word “perfectly”—and for good reason. Chicken has a very small window of perfection. Overcook it the least bit, it’s dry and chewy. Undercook it and it’s not just repulsive, it’s dangerous. So this is why I’m excited about the best damn chicken. Ever. (I added that last part just to sound like all the other bloggers. You gotta do that single word period thing if you really want to play in the big leagues….) Here it is topping a salad (recipe coming soon!). Jump straight to the recipe for the best damn chicken or read my Fabulous Commentary and Step by Step.

First off, let’s address the whole meat thing. I’m not wild about the texture of chicken thighs, despite everyone insisting that they’re more flavorful. That flavor comes from extra fat, and that fat gives the meat a texture that I just find weird. As a child, the smell of roasting meat, particularly beef, which my mom cooked every freaking Sunday, used to make me gag. I still don’t eat mammals except for (forgive me) an occasional bit of bacon.

For the meat-squeamish, dark chicken meat—thighs, wings, drumsticks—just doesn’t cut it. Even when boneless, but especially when the bones are still in there. That whole gnawing-on-a-bone thing appears to be the height of primal ecstasy for some folks. For me, a medieval banquet sounds about as fun as living in medieval times. In other words, head lice, chastity belts (call me uncomfy!), and a lot more people who look like this…

princess bride boo lady than this:

princess bride buttercup

So right off the bat, you can bet that the best damn chicken is breast meat. Boneless and skinless. Yeah, I’m sort of like a picky 6-year-old here, and I am So OK With It.

Here’s how I prep it.

Best Damn Chicken: Cutting and Marinating

Best damn chicken starts with marinating boneless chicken breasts, because chicken breasts are hella bland. In order to expose as much surface as possible and, at the same time, make sure there are no disgusting tendon surprises in the meat, I cut the meat into about 2-3 inch pieces. The marinade needs salt due to the bland factor, and soy sauce functions beautifully in that role. There’s also some acid for tenderizing, via , and minced garlic and ginger for more flavor. If you were preparing this to go with Italian food, you could sub a super flavorful (read: not from Costco) broth for the soy sauce, and leave out the ginger in favor of some oregano. Let the chicken soak in that for at least half an hour; I like to do 3-4 hours myself.

best damn chicken marinade

(You could probably do it overnight in a pinch, though I haven’t tried it and can’t guarantee that the marinade won’t start to break down the texture. But given that it’s just a small amount of acid, I think you can get away with it.)

(Also? It is even harder to make this pretty than Chia Seed Pudding. I tried….)

Best Damn Chicken: Coating

First, heat your oven to 400º. Place a parchment lined rimmed dish or baking sheet in the oven to warm up. I like to put a little butter, say 2 tsp or so, on the sheet to melt.
While the oven preheats, mix up an egg in one bowl. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, then place it in the egg bowl and stir it around. Let it sit while you cover a plate in the flour of your choice; gluten-free will work just fine. Fish the pieces out of the egg one at a time with a fork; you’ll probably end up using your fingers at some point, but I’m just warning you it’s pretty messy. Put the egg-covered chicken piece in flour and turn it so that it’s lightly covered in flour. Some missing spots are ok, and it’s more of a dusting, not a dunk. Depending on how much you’re making, you might want to have a rack over a piece of parchment to hold the egged and floured chicken as it finishes.

best damn chicken coating

You could also shake 2 pieces at a time in a bag with flour; I just don’t know many people who keep paper bags around these days (not the small ones, like we used to use for lunch bags, which are kinda perfect for this).

Best Damn Chicken: Baking

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven, and, if desired, add about a teaspoon or so of oil to the melted butter. You can either set the egged and floured pieces directly on the heated baking sheet, or you can just keep them on the rack, in which case there’s no need to have any fat on the baking sheet. But I find the fat adds a nice richness to the chicken. The rack method is not really going to yield a fried consistency, no matter what people tell you about oven fried chicken.
(BTW, I’m currently scouting for deals on an air fryer to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be, but I have to say I’m skeptical that blowing all that hot air on food is really going to be good for it….)

Bake 10 minutes, flip the chicken, and it really only needs about another 3-4 minutes to be perfect. Add it to anything, especially a big salad or bowl. Or just dip it in ranch dressing. Thoroughly toothsome, to go slightly medieval on you.

best damn chicken baked

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Best Damn Chicken: The Recipe