This delicious bread is such a treat in our house. It is lightly sweet, soft and delicious. By the time I am done baking the second loaf, the first one is usually almost gone!
In your mixer’s bowl, combine a quarter cup of lukewarm water, 5 teaspoons of yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar. Stir it together and let it sit until it gets bubbly…8-10 minutes.
Add in another cup of warm water, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup dry milk powder, and 3 cups of white bread flour. Mix together using your dough hook attachment. Beat this for about 2 minutes on medium speed, until a smooth batter is made.
Turn mixer down to low, and gradually add the 3 eggs, butter and salt. Mix thoroughly. Scrape the sides of the bowl a couple times with a spatula to be certain all of the ingredients are mixing in.
Gradually add the remaining flour about 1/2 c at a time, as needed to create a soft, but not sticky dough. Mix with the hook about 10 minutes, until smooth and soft.
Every so often, my dough will start “riding” the middle of my mixer and not really kneading. I just take the dough out and finish it by hand on a floured surface.
Take out a large bowl, and lightly oil the inside of it. Form your dough into a neat ball, place it in the bowl and turn it to lightly coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel, and set it in a warm place to rise. I find that the oven with the light turned on works perfectly. Allow it to rise until it is doubled in size, about 2 hours or so.
After your dough has risen, drain any remaining liquid from your raisins, and then lightly dust them with some flour. This makes them easier to work into the dough.
Prepare two large baking sheets or stones. Ideally, cover them with a silpat or parchment paper. Spray the surface with cooking spray, or brush with oil. Set them aside.
Turn your dough out onto a floured surface. Pat it out into a flat shape.
Place your raisins on top, and fold the dough over in half, covering them.
With your fingers, gently push down the dough over the raisins.
Fold the dough in half several times, and then give in a quick “kneading.”
Divide the dough in half.
Take one half, and divide that into three equal portions.
Begin working the portions into three long ropes. Get them as long as you can… generally 18-20 inches or so. Be patient, this takes a little work.
Lay the ropes on your baking sheet, one along the center of the length, and the other two criss-crossing like an “X”
Braid one end together, and then turn it around and braid the other end, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough.
Spray two sheets of plastic wrap with cooking spray.
Gently lay the plastic wrap, sprayed side down over the loaves. You don’t want this to seal to the baking sheet.
Set them back in your warm place to rise for another hour.
When the hour is up, set them on your counter (if they were rising in your oven) and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk an egg with a pinch of salt until frothy.
Brush the top of the dough of one loaf with the egg, trying not to “seal” the dough to the sheet. If you get egg down on the bottom like you see here, blot it up with a paper towel. Then sprinkle the top of the loaf with a tablespoon or two of raw (demerera) sugar.
Bake it in your oven for 30-35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and sounds lightly “hollow” when tapped. Cool it on a baking rack, covered with a clean tea towel and repeat with the other loaf. If your loaves start getting too dark while baking, you can loosely cover them with foil.