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Houska Braided Sweet Bread

Houska Braided Sweet Bread

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Rating: ★★★★★
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A beautiful bread for any occasion, so flavorful and dense it needs no butter!

Credit: galleryschoice.com Adapted from a student furnished family recipe “Agnes’ Houska”

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 eggs (2 in bread dough + 1 mixed with splash cold milk for brushing)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 lemon (zested)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. almond extract
  • 1 1/4 c. milk + a splash of cold milk (for egg brushing mixture)
  • 2 1/4 t. dry active yeast (=1/4 oz.; =1 pkg.)
  • 3/4 c. raisins
  • 1/3 c. slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c. + 1 t. sugar
  • (opt.) 1/2 c. walnut halves

Directions

  1. Start yeast by placing 2 1/4 t. dry active yeast into a cup with 1 t. sugar and adding 1/4 c. gently warmed milk. Set mixture aside and allow foam to rise.
  2. Meanwhile, gently heat 1 c. milk and 1/2 c. butter and 1/2 c. sugar until melted. Let mixture cool until luke warm when added to flour mixture in next step.
  3. Mix 4 c. flour, salt, lemon zest in a large bowl.
  4. Add activated yeast mixture to flour mixture.
  5. Slowly add the milk, butter, sugar mixture (luke warm) to flour.
  6. Beat 2 eggs, almond and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and add to flour mix.
  7. Beat mixture with wood spoon* until it does not stick to spoon. (Add remaining flour – up to 1/2 c. – as needed to achieve this moist but not runny consistency. This will vary depending on humidity!)
  8. Cover with cloth and set in warm place allowing dough to rise until doubled in size.
  9. Meanwhile, soak raisins in water to plump. (Remember to drain before adding to dough!)
  10. Lightly toast slivered almonds by spreading them in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and place in a 350 degree oven for 7 – 10 min. just until fragrant.
  11. When dough has doubled in size, add raisins (drained) and almonds, mix well and let rise again, until doubled in size.
  12. When dough has risen for the second time, divide in half, and then into thirds to make six even pieces.
  13. Roll into strips approximately 20 inches long.
  14. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or grease the sheet).
  15. Braid 3 pieces of rolled dough.
  16. Beat 1 egg with splash of milk and lightly brush the braid. (It will make it slippery so go easy!)
  17. Twist 2 more pieces of dough and place on top of braid. Brush with egg/milk mixture.
  18. Add last section of dough on top. Add walnuts. Bush again with egg/milk mix.
  19. Let mountain of dough rise for about 20 minutes. (Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, while you wait!)
  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  21. *Yes, you can use your KitchenAid with dough hook for mixing!

With origins of this recipe from Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Austria among other lands, this bread is as interesting as it is tasty!

Introduced to this fabulous flavor by a stained glass student, Nancy, this bread instantly brought back childhood memories of Sunday bakery fresh sweet bread my dad and brother would enjoy. A Polish bakery staple, this bread (and it’s many modifications) is known in different countries and revered as Easter Bread, Christmas Bread, etc.

According to http://www.thespruceats.com, “Leftovers are great in bread pudding, makówki (Polish poppyseed bread pudding).” But I wouldn’t know, since I have never experienced any left over!

I can verify it makes great base for French Toast, and I would highly recommend using it in a simple stove top stuffing great with pork or chicken dishes. (Try it in a savory stuffing using our very own GC Lavender Herbs de Provence!) I’ll work up a stuffing recipe for another post, so stay tuned!

When I am stacking the raw dough, I feel like I am watching the leaning tower of pisa, sliding over very slowly! I adjust the dough once – twice – then I close my eyes and let it rest and rise the 20 minutes, and with blind faith, place it into the oven!

A beautiful dark crust (Yes MILK and EGG people! It makes a difference!) with a dense center. The taste – bright (from lemon), mildly sweet, smooth – serve warm or cold. I love the fact that I am not craving butter when I eat this (although a small dab is heavenly!) as the bread’s flavor stands alone.

Thank you Nancy for sharing this fabulous recipe! It has become one of my absolute favorites!

2 Comments

  1. Lyndi Sue Hofstra says

    Way beyond my capabilities but it looks like a wonderful recipe and bread!

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