Egg Braid

©From "Great Bread Every Time" by Marilyn Barbe

Makes 2 braids

1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp. oil
7 cups flour
sesame or poppy seeds

In a 1 cup measure, pour 1/2 cup warm water. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, but do not stir. Slowly sprinkle 2 tablespoons yeast into the water, making sure each particle gets wet. Again, do not stir. Wait 10 minutes until the yeast is thick and foamy.

While you are waiting for the yeast to proof combine the following ingredients in your bread bowl stirring well between each addition: 2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 eggs. Then stir in the yeast and 2 cups of flour. Add 3 tablespoons oil and stir.

ADD FLOUR (quickly)
This dough should be rather stiff so the braids will retain their shape. Add remaining flour, 2 cups at a time, and stir to make a stiff dough. Coat the dough lightly with flour and turn it out onto a floured kneading surface.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic: 10 minutes. Lightly dust the kneading surface if the dough becomes too sticky to handle.

Place the dough into a bowl, turn to grease the top, set in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to rise until double: 1-1 1/2 hours.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down, pull it away from the sides of the bowl and turn it out onto the kneading surface. Knead it briefly to break all of the large bubbles. Cut the dough in half and set it aside to rest.

Then cut 1/3 of the dough off of one of the pieces and set it aside. Cut the remaining 2/3 into 3. Roll each piece into a rope 18 inches long. Braid the ropes and place them on a greased baking sheet. Cut the remaining 1/3 dough into 3 small pieces. Roll each out into a rope 16 inches long. Braid these ropes and place them securely on top of the braid already on the baking sheet. Do the same with the second half of the dough.

Allow to rise until double in a warm, draft-free spot: 30 minutes.

Brush the braids with egg wash (page 21). Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.

Bake in a 4000F oven for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.