There is something about a braided bread that looks delicate, decadent, and absolutely professional. If you're new to baking bread, you might think this technique is hard to achieve. With a little practice, it's actually quite easy. If you know how to braid hair or string, the same method is applied to this dough. Once you have it mastered, you'll be baking braided bread for yourself, family, and friends. Use a kitchen thermometer to test the warm milk and water temperature.
- 1 cup warmed milk (no hotter than 110 F)
- 1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
- 1 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (no hotter than 110 F)
- 3 large eggs (divided, at room temperature, beaten)
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Optional: 1 cup golden raisins
Gather the ingredients.
In a small bowl, or in the pot used to heat the milk, whisk together lukewarm milk (110 F), butter, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine and until butter is thoroughly melted.
Place yeast and warm water (110 F) in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. With the paddle attachment, mix until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 2 eggs and combine. Add flour and continue to mix until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Add raisins (if using) and thoroughly combine. The dough will be sticky.
Transfer dough to a clean, greased bowl. Turn dough over to grease the top and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until the dough has doubled (about 1 hour). You also can microwave your dough to help cut down on the rising time.
When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn out onto a lightly floured board. The less flour you use, the better the bread will be.
If making one large loaf, divide the dough into three equal pieces. If making two loaves, divide the dough into two equal pieces and divide each of the two pieces into three equal pieces, for a total of six pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 14 inches long. Use three ropes per bread. If making two loaves, roll the ropes into 10- to 12-inch lengths.
Combine the tops of the three ropes. Start braiding from the top, as you would for a plait of hair. Tuck the dough under a bit when you get to the bottom.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Let the bread rise, loosely covered with oiled plastic wrap, until doubled in volume, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush lightly with remaining beaten egg. Bake 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 to 200 F when placed in the middle of the loaf.
Remove bread from the oven. When completely cool, slice and serve. If you have leftovers, they're great in bread pudding or sliced for French toast!