This light and fluffy sweet bread is a staple in our home around Easter. It’s definitely worth the effort and you can make it ahead of time and freeze it for the breakfast on Easter morning. The spice mahleb gives this bread its signature taste – so don’t leave it out. You won’t regret making the extra effort to find it in a Middle Eastern market.
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup salted butter
- 2 tbsp vegetable shortening, chopped into small cubes
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
- 5 eggs
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed (I ended up adding an additional 2 cups to get it to be the right consistency)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground mahleb (make sure this is finely ground, you do NOT want chunks!)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp cream
HOW TO MAKE IT
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. Heat until butter is melted, but do not let it boil. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved, then set aside to cool to lukewarm.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface, and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- Crack the eggs into a large bowl, and stir a little to break up the yolks. Slowly pour in the heated milk mixture while whisking constantly, so as to temper the eggs and not cook them. Add the yeast mixture and vanilla, and stir just until blended.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, mahleb, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the wet mixture and the vegetable shortening. (Alternatively, if you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, put the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and slowly add in the wet ingredients and then the shortening) Stir until it forms a sticky dough. Pour onto a floured surface, and knead in additional flour as needed to make a more substantial dough.
- Knead for about 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, and set in a warm place to rise for about 3 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Separate the dough into 5 even portions, then separate each of those into thirds. Roll each of those into ropes about 12 inches long. Braid sets of three ropes together, pinching the ends to seal, and tucking them under for a better presentation. (You can also make smaller loaves but you will have to adjust the bake time.)
- Place the loaves onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Brush the loaves with beaten egg and cream
- Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until nicely golden brown all over