Got this recipe from my Bulgarian mother-in-law (took notes while she made it, and have made it since). This makes a lot, so feel free to halve it - I often do, but it also freezes really well. It's a day's project, but well worth it - we love the combination of the lemon zest and the rummy raisins in this fresh bread. The braiding is the traditional form, but I have also made this in small loaf pans just to save time, and rolls are yummy too. Be careful not to cook too long - you will lose the wonderful stretchy yeasty moist texture.
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons yeast
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1 egg, beaten lightly
- 1 1⁄3 cups warmed milk
- 1 1⁄2 cups raisins
- 3⁄4 cup rum
- 2 lemons
- 5 lbs flour (you may not use it all)
- 1⁄2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups sugar
- 11 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (vanilla powder is fine)
- 1 cup almonds or 1 cup hazelnuts or 1 cup walnuts, are fine too
- Mix first five ingredients (yeast, small amount sugar, salt, one egg, warm milk) in a large bowl.
- Cover and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes.
- Put raisins in rum to cover, and set aside to soak.
- Grate and juice the lemons.
- Set aside.
- Sift 4 of the five pounds of flour onto a large tray or other work surface.
- (You can estimate- does not need to be precise.).
- Melt butter and combine with oil.
- Heat 2 cups of milk and sugar on low in a small saucepan until warm.
- Separate 4 of the eggs; set aside the yolks for brushing.
- Beat the whites with the other 7 eggs.
- Add a handful of the flour from the work surface to the warm yeast mixture.
- Bit by bit, mix in with a spoon the rest of the flour, the milk mixture, the beaten eggs and the butter/oil mixture.
- When most of it is together, mix in the lemon juice and zest, and the vanilla.
- Adding more flour to the work surface if necessary, dump out the dough and knead until it holds together well.
- Let the dough rest in a warm place until double in bulk (1-2 hours).
- You may need to divide between two bowls.
- Punch down and knead the dough.
- Drain the raisins and dredge in flour.
- Work about half of them into the dough as you knead, a few at a time.
- Let the dough sit and rise again (another 1-2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 425 (400 if your oven runs hot).
- Punch down and knead again.
- Divide the dough into 8 parts.
- Each of these, divide into three parts; roll them long and braid into a single loaf.
- While braiding, work the remainder of the raisins between the strands.
- Brush the loaves with the reserved egg yolk and stud the top with nuts.
- Bake the loaves about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- (We usually did about 3 loaves at a time.) You can also use the dough to make smaller rolls, if you prefer; bake for proportionally less time.