- 2 cups milk – Do not use nonfat milk.
- 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper, (~1/16 tsp. optional, non-traditional)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 9 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- Ground cardamom to taste (~1/4 tsp. optional, non-traditional)
- Nutmeg to taste (~ 1/8 tsp. optional, non-traditional)
- Cinnamon to taste (~ 1/2 tsp. optional, non-traditional)
- Allspice to taste (~ one small pinch per loaf. optional, non-traditional)
1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it just starts to evenly form small bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Immediately stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 4 eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups). Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Add about 3 cups of the flour and beat well; the dough should be smooth and glossy in appearance.
4. Add the melted butter or margarine, and stir well. If you wish to add cayenne pepper, do so at this time. Beat again until the dough looks glossy.
5. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff.
6. Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny.
7. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled.
8. Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 12 to 16 inch strip. Braid 3 strips into a loaf. You should get 3 large braided loaves. Lift the braids onto greased baking sheets. Let rise for 20 minutes.
9. Glaze: Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, optionally dust with cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice. Mix and match your taste.
10. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom burns easily. The bread will naturally tear between braids as it rises.
Other native variations of this bread include sliced/diced/shredded almonds and/or rasins at step 4. A vaguely Russian(?) influence is making a glaze of Egg and Sugar and topping the hump of each braid with a few kernels of rock salt. (See inclusive picture)