These sweet breads date back to days when ingredients such as dried fruit, spices, sugar, and butter were precious. In many European countries, there are various traditions and celebrations surrounding the use of bread during the Easter holiday. These rich breads like Russian kulich, Greek tsoureki, and Italian colomba pasquale are often braided, and decorated with colored sugars and boiled eggs. The extra effort to braid your homemade bread makes it not only delicious but beautiful as well.
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 5 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or almonds (optional as a topping)
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, cinnamon, and half the flour. Mix until smooth, stir in the rest of the flour to form a soft dough and fold in raisins.
- Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let it rise in a greased bowl (in a draft-free warm area) for 1 hour.
- Punch down, and divide into 6 equal portions for 2 loaves of bread. Roll each portion into a 12-inch rope. Place 3 dough ropes on parchment paper or greased baking sheet, braid and set aside. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough ropes. Cover and let rise again for about ½ hour.
- Brush with egg and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.