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EGG BRAIDS/EASTER BREAD
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup dried skim milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup soft butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, well beaten
3 cups flour (2 in bowl, 1 on kneading surface)
1 egg separated, discard white and blend yoke with a tsp of water
In large metal bowl, blend flour, dried milk and sugar, then add warm water and stir with wooden spoon until you get all the flour mixture you can moistened (scrape sides of bowl often).
Combine sugar, ginger and yeast, then add warm water and stir until lumps are gone. Set someplace warm and let rise until bubbling.
Add yeast mix to big bowl and beat well. Blend in soft butter. In a small bowl, beat eggs until frothy, then add salt to them and beat until mix turns darker yellow. Add to large bowl and blend with two more cups of flour until mixture is stiff and sticky.
Take third cup of flour and sift onto kneading surface (I just use my Formica countertop).Turn out contents of large bowl onto kneading surface. It will be soft and a bit runny, so take care to keep it on sifted flour as you cover the mass with more sifted flour. You'll need to add more flour as you knead. Using the heels of your hands, work the dough thoroughly until it is smooth and elastic with small bubbles starting to appear on the surface. Usually 10-12 minutes if you're working in a nicely warm room.
Using more soft butter, coat the surface of the dough to keep it moist so it can rise, return it to the large bowl (which you will first need to wash to remove any sticky/floury bits from sides). Cover with a slightly damp towel and let rise until well doubled in bulk. I often turn my oven on the "warm" setting and place the bread on top of the stove so it catches the residual heat. Rising should take around 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn out dough and knead again. Divide dough in half using a sharp knife. Then divide both halves into thirds. Roll out each piece to make a long rope-like shape (around 15-16 inches). When you have three "ropes" fashion them into a braid, pinching both ends to keep it from unraveling. Place the braid on one side of a large cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the other three pieces. Cover braids with plastic wrap or a damp towel, being certain to allow lots of space along top so braids can rise until doubled in size.
When braids are doubled in bulk, brush with beaten egg yoke/water mixture. Sprinkle any kind of seeds you fancy on top of braids. I usually prefer sesame or poppy, but caraway and celery will work, too. Place braids on sheet in oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the deep golden brown crusts make a hollow sound when you thump them with your finger.
Cool and slice, or freeze in plastic bags to be heated up for a wonderful dinner accompaniment!
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