I like making this bread because it makes three large loaves. That way, Allen could nibble on one while it was still warm, and the others would be intact for whatever event that was coming up soon. We often served at holiday dinners or other large gatherings with lots of people milling about.
Before the pandemic was limiting social interaction, I would bake all three loaves and kids/grandkids would eat a warm loaf fresh from the oven, and each family could still take a loaf home. Now I still like making it, so I can give one to each kid/family and still have one for me.
After I eat the end pieces (my favorite!) I will have plenty left over so I can make the bread pudding Karl has been hinting about. His recent text went something like this: “You say I can always request. When you have a moment, I would love some of your bread pudding?!
THREE LOAVES MAY NOT BE ENOUGH!
If you make it, you may think that there will plenty left over—but don’t count on it. I rarely have any left to send home with family or friends.
This is a soft, sweet bread, similar to Challah. The dough is enriched with butter and eggs as well as sweetened with honey. I also make honey butter to serve with it, just to up the ante on deliciousness.
You can wrap this bread ion foil and freeze it, too. Then you can just pull it out to thaw, and serve it when needed, or have it ready to give to someone as a gift when someone deserves a nice surprise.
First, I put the yeast and about a teaspoon of water in a glass measuring cup. Then always let tap water run until it is very warm and feels comfortable, but not hot, on the inside of my wrist. When it feels “cozy warm” I add it to the yeast/sugar mix and stir to dissolve it all.
As the yeast starts to proof, I melt the butter in a microwave in a large measuring cup, then add the milk and honey. Continue to heat it all together for 30-60 seconds more so it gets to a nice warm temperature.
SWEET, RICH DOUGH
Pour the milk mixture into the mixing bowl and add a couple of cups of all-purpose flour. After a minute or two of hand mixing, add the yeast, salt and beaten eggs. Add more flour until a nice, soft dough is formed. Knead by hand or in a stand mixer for 10 minutes until it is supple smooth. See this link about making bread dough if you would like more specific information.
Let the dough rise, covered, for about an hour. You can make a proofing oven out of your own oven if your kitchen is cold: put some boiling hot water in a pan next to the bread dough bowl, and put both in the oven (don’t turn the oven on!).
When the dough has doubled in bulk, divide it in thirds. Then divide each piece into thirds and roll three snakes: braid them together. Put the braided dough on a pan lined with a silpat or parchment that is lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat for the other two pieces. If you have a wide cookie sheet or half sheet pan, you should be able to get two braids on one pan.
Let the braids rise again. You can cover them with a dry, light-weight kitchen towel, or put them back in the “proofing oven” then you won’t need to cover them.
PREHEAT, BAKE AND ENJOY
I preheat the oven after about half an hour and bake the braids when they have puffed up again, (about 45 minutes after forming). Bake the braids for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
My family, especially granddaughter Eva, LOVES to have honey butter with this bread. Maybe because it tastes like dessert then! “Any way you slice it”, whether you add butter, honey butter, additional honey, or just eat it plain—you and your family will enjoy every last bite.
HONEY BRAIDS AND HONEY BUTTER
- 1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup water, very warm
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup Milk
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6-7 cups flour
Combine yeast and sugar; add very warm water and stir to dissolve. Set aside to proof.
Melt butter in microwave glass cup or bowl. Add milk and honey, and heat for 30 seconds, stir. Continue heating until just warm; 30-60 seconds more. Pour milk mixture into bowl and add 2 cups flour and salt, stirring thoroughly. Add yeast mixture and 2 additional cups flour. Stir until combined. Stir in eggs thoroughly. Add 2 more cups flour and stir until completely combined. Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Knead on lightly floured surface or in bowl of stand mixer until smooth and elastic, about10 minutes.
Place in greased bowl, cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled (about an hour). Divide dough into thirds. Working with one third at a time, divide each piece into thirds again. Shape each third into a long log or snake shape. Braid the three pieces together and place on a cookie or sheet pan lined with silpat or lightly sprayed parchment.
Let rise again (30-45 minutes) until doubled in size.
Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with honey butter if desired.
HONEY BUTTER: Combine 1 cup softened butter and 1/4-1/3 cup honey until well blended.