Happy new year, friends! My old friend M first found this recipe and I've made it a few times over the last few years, and decided it's basically foolproof. J and I made it last night, and it was massive -- far bigger than a dinner plate -- and wildly delicious.
Thanks, Diana! She recommends plumping the raisins beforehand by covering with hot water or brandy or fruit juice and letting sit for 3 to 5 minutes. (She also has bread machine variations and a few others on her website.)
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packages (1/2 oz./4 1/2 tsp./14g) instant yeast or bread yeast
7 to 8 cups bread flour (approximately)
1/8 tsp. powdered saffron or a pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz./8 tbsp./113g) butter or margarine, melted (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil may be used)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups golden raisins, plumped *(See below on How to Plump Raisins)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten and mixed with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water
In a large mixing bowl, stir the 1 tsp. sugar into the 1 1/2 cups warm
water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir well; let stand until frothy or foamy,
about 10 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in 7 cups of the
flour, saffron (if using) and salt. Add honey, the 1/3 cup sugar,
melted butter (or vegetable oil or melted margarine, if using), whole
eggs and egg yolks; stir until dough forms.
2. Turn dough out
onto lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about
10 minutes, adding enough of the remaining 1 cup flour as necessary to
prevent sticking (you may need to add more flour if your dough is still
too sticky. Add in one tablspoon at a time until the dough is cohesive).
Place dough in a greased glass or ceramic bowl, turning to grease dough
all over. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap or a warm damp kitchen
towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size and
indentation remains when dough is poked with 2 fingers, about one hour
or so. Punch down dough, transfer dough to work surface, let rest for 10
minutes, then knead in raisins (if using).
3. To Make Round Crown Loaf:
out dough into a 30-inch (76 cm) long rope. Holding one end in place,
wind remaining rope around end to form a fairly tight spiral that is
slightly higher in the center of dough. Transfer dough to a greased
rimmed baking sheet.
4. To Make a 4 rope Braided Loaf:
dough into quarters; roll each quarter into 18-inch (45 cm) long ropes.
Place side by side on a greased rimmed baking sheet; pinch ropes
together at one end. Starting at pinched end, move second rope from left
over rope on its right. Move far right rope over 2 ropes on left. Move
far left rope over 2 ropes on right. Repeat until braid is complete;
tuck ends under braid.
5. Cover crown loaf or braid loaf with
plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel; let rise in warm draft-free place
until doubled in size, about one hour.
6. Egg Wash:
Stir egg yolk with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water; brush over loaf (s).
in center of 350°F/180°C oven until deep golden brown and loaf sounds
hollow when tapped on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on rack for 15
minutes before slicing.
Makes 1 "generously" large loaf or 2 large loaves