It’s all Greek to Me:: Greek Easter Sweet Bread

Greek Easter Bread recipe | annettejosephstyle.com

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of shooting Niki and Sandy Papadapplous’s Big Fat Greek Easter Party for Atlanta Magazine’s Home. One of the highlights of the party menu was this sweet Easter bread, or Tsoureki in Greek. Ever since that issue hit news stands, I’ve thought about what a beautiful, delicious addition it would be to your menu and table. Give it a try and wow your guests!

TSOUREKI (Easter Sweet Bread)
Makes 4 loaves

You will need:

– 7 cups Flour
– 3 quick rise yeast packets
– ½ cup warm water
– 1¾ cup sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 Tablespoon mahlepi
– 1 teaspoon mastic
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 2 teaspoon lemon & orange zest (mixed)
– 5 eggs (room temperature)
– ½ cup hot milk
– 1 cup melted butter

Note : All ingredients should be warm or at the very least room temperature to help the dough rise faster.

Egg Wash for bread:
– 1 egg
– a few drops of vanilla
– 1 Tablespoon water
– ½ cup of sliced almonds

To Prepare:

  1. Mix warm water and yeast, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl put flour, make a whole with your hands in the center of the flour to put the sugar, zest, salt, spices and mix that your hands. Add hot milk and mix again with your hands. Once the dough is incorporated add eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the yeast water mixture, your dough should be stringy when pulled apart.
  3. Next pour melted butter into the bowl one handful at a time and fold the dough (do not knead the dough). Pull and fold and pour in melted butter, repeat until you’ve used all the butter. Don’t worry if you see butter puddle around the edges, it will absorb as the dough rises.
  4. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap that it tucked down inside the bowl touching the dough. Then wrap the entire bowl in towels and place in a warm place for the dough to rise for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, separate into 4 equal parts. Then separate each of the four parts into three pieces and roll the dough with your hands into approximately 14 inch long and about finger thickness.
  5. Braid the three long cylinder pieces just like you would braid hair. You will have 4 braids.
  6. Place each braid in a 12” round pan that has been lined with parchment paper and cover with towel, place in a warm spot for 30-45 minutes for dough to rise again.
  7. Once each of the braids have risen, prepare the egg wash. Beat the egg with water and vanilla then brush each of the braids, this will give the bread a beautiful shine.
  8. Place pans into a preheated 350° oven (2 at a time) and bake for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough, if you see it getting too brown, cover with foil until baked through.
  9. Once bread has cooled, cut out the center and place a hard boiled egg that has been dyed red sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Photo by: PATRICK HEAGNEY

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Philip Meeker

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The final member of the wedding dream team I’d like you to meet is our chef, Philip Meeker. Philip joined us for the first time last summer, and he was an amazing fit for our workshops and weddings at La Fortezza. Learn more about Philip in today’s interview!

Q: What is your culinary background/expertise?

A: My formal training is in classical French cuisine, but my first serious restaurant job was garde manger at a little Italian place. I learned to make pasta and tiramisu in the pastry kitchen, and I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how much better food tasted when it was made from scratch which I’d never really experienced before. From there I moved to Paris where I spent years studying the fundamentals of French cuisine, working in a two-star Michelin restaurant, baking bread in a traditional boulangerie, and learning how to properly handle and break down meat in an artisanal butchery. I moved to Atlanta in 2008 and spent several years in the restaurant industry making use of the amazing bounty of local vegetables, cheeses, meats, and grains. I’ve spent the last few years working as a private chef and food stylist which has allowed me to travel the world and deepen my knowledge of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Q: What is your role at La Fortezza? In what ways are you providing more than great food?

A: I get to nourish guests with all the wonderful foods from the garden, local farms, and shops in nearby villages. We often eat yogurt and cheeses from the dairy just across the river as part of our breakfast. I make sure to use local flours from the mill for everything that I bake. Having such fresh ingredients to work with is like being in heaven for me. And then I get to sit down with everybody and hear their reactions while we dine – what a treat!  My attitude towards cooking is pretty playful, so I like to think I add a sense of joy and lightheartedness to La Fortezza.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an inspiring backdrop for everything from photoshoots to weddings?

A: From the moment you set foot on the property you’re engulfed in beauty. There are mountains surrounding you, gentle breezes, chirping birds, olive orchards, and little villages with terracotta roofs dotting the landscape below. Then there’s the house itself: the ancient fortress that Annette has brought back to life. The vineyard is full of grapes and the cellar is full of wine pressed and brewed by the local winemaker. The garden is full of tomatoes, herbs, and delicate greens. Each season different trees bloom and fruit. I loved eating the persimmons growing outside my room last fall.

Q: Why should someone consider planning a trip to La Fortezza?

A: La Fortezza exposes you to a side of Italy that you wouldn’t be able to get if you spent your time with tour guides, and Annette has a particularly unique point of view given her 15 years in Italy. The location of La Fortezza is near so many delicious locations: Emilia-Romagna and the towns of Parma and Modena, Carerra with its marble and lardo, and Liguria with its own riviera full of focaccia and fresh seafood. Annette is familiar with all of these regions, and La Fortezza provides easy access to each of them.

Q: What is your favorite part of preparing meals for La Fortezza guests?

A: I love cooking for people – it feels like my life’s purpose. It’s great getting to chat with (and sometimes teach) the guests as I cook, showing them how to roll out pasta or prepare pesto. The kitchen is totally inspired as well, from the marble countertops to the Lacanche oven to the ancient farm table and sunsets outside the kitchen window.

Finish this sentence: I love Italy because people in Italy understand how to live well.

Q: What is one food/beverage/ingredient you couldn’t live without?

A: I couldn’t live without olive oil, especially when it’s sourced from local olive mills.

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Lisa Redgrave

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We’re continuing the excitement of our wedding page launch by introducing you to a few more members of the wedding dream team. Today, I’d like you to meet Lisa Redgrave of Hitched in Italy:

Q:  What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A: My family and I bought our home in Tuscany in 2004. I have huge affection for the region, so it was the natural choice to get married there 10 years ago. It was a small wedding, but I tackled the Italian Bureaucracy and planned it all myself. It went without a hitch. I thought if I could do it for myself, I could do it for others. That was the start of Hitched in Italy. I have since organized over 100 weddings: elopements, same sex ceremonies, Catholic, Jewish and Indian weddings. I’m proud to say I’ve done it all.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: I’m the bride and groom’s “go to girl.”  I source suppliers suitable for the occasion. I keep a calm head in what can be a stressful environment. I maintain a level of cool when people are feeling far from cool, and I iron out the creases. Once all the planning is done and vendors are in place, I’m there to hold your hand and walk you through the most wonderful day of your life. I stay in the background on the wedding day, but you will feel reassured by my presence. I’m equally as happy adjusting your bouquet or getting you a cocktail. I have my eye on everything, and I’m thinking ahead. You’re safe in the knowledge that I will have already thought of ‘it’ and can fix ‘that’.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A: La Fortezza is an incredible venue, not only is the location staggeringly beautiful, the careful and thoughtful renovation and the styling of the property, and it’s private grounds are second to none.  Those who choose La Fortezza as their wedding venue will have a wedding day that will be truly unique.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: The best pizza in the world, cocktails at sundown, endless sunshine, delicious regional wine, breathtaking scenery, rich culture, real coffee…need I go on? A destination wedding is far more than just a wedding day; it’s an opportunity to spend several days with your family and friends, drinking in the atmosphere and making lifelong memories.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: After the cake is cut and everyone is dancing and the drinks are flowing, I get to sit back and watch everyone literally having the best day of their lives. There is no better feeling.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?
A: Keep cool! Having organized hundreds of weddings, I know that the brides who are most relaxed have the most fun. At La Fortezza your wedding will be planned and styled with the utmost care and attention. Leave the hard work to us and allow yourself to kick back and enjoy.

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Italian Travel Guide:: One Stop Shop

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After nearly an entire month of writing about traveling to Italy for one of my workshops, I thought it would be a good idea to devote a final post to the topic. Think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one stop shop for all of the information you need to know. It will be a FAQ page of sorts. Here’s a quick reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I don’t know about you, but the past month has me more ready than ever to get back to my Italian home. I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2019 summer workshop and Artist in Residence program are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular. From styling workshops with yours truly to one-on-one painting lessons with Steve, this is going to be an incredible season of workshops.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Why you should bring your Mom to a La Fortezza Workshop

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Mother Daughter Truffle hunting excursion

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These sisters brought their Mom to paint with Steve. It was on the bucket list, and they ticked it off the list last year.

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Enjoying the sunshine with a picnic in the olive groves

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Hiking and photography with Emily in the hills above.

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Pasta making lessons in our commercial kitchen.

It’s been brought to my attention that we have a lot of mothers and daughters that join us on our workshops and retreats. I had never thought about it before, but I was chatting with someone about bringing her Mom to our Steve Mckenzie’s Artist in Residence Program in July. I realized how many Moms and daughters had joined us in Italy over the years. There are lots of benefits to traveling with your Mom according to Psychology Today:

“Travel, in and of itself, offers a chance to get outside of our normal, everyday self. When two women who’ve known each other as long or as intimately as a mother and daughter have head out together, they are able to shake off the cobwebs from home as they stir up the dust of adventure down a new path.” 

La Fortezza seems like the perfect place to enjoy some down time with your Mom or your daughter all while learning how to cook Italian foods, visiting our secret places like flea markets and beautiful open air markets in chic destinations and painting lessons in the Italian countryside.

Mother daughter vacations seem to be our thing, and I could not be more thrilled. Book an adventure today and make some amazing memories with your beloved Mom or daughter and bring your sister along as well. You won’t regret it. I am hoping this is a something La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats become known for during the coming years. Encouraging generations of women to explore together is a mission I am focused on. We would love to welcome you and your Mom daughter or sister, head to the site and grab your spots. NOTE* If your Mom is not participating in the workshop you will get special pricing, email me for details before you check out to save.

xx Annette

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