It is an Italian tradition to make this sweet, golden braid at Easter. This family heirloom recipe came from my mother-in-law, which was passed down to her from her mother. If you're not a fan of raisins, the bread is just as wonderful without them. —Kathi West, Canton, Michigan
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1-1/3 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 teaspoons anise extract
- 6 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, butter and salt; mix well. Add eggs, extract and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
- Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; sprinkle with raisins and knead in. Divide in half. Divide each portion into thirds. Shape each into a 14-in. rope. Place three ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- Whisk egg white and water; brush over braids. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 loaves.
Originally published as Italian Easter Bread in Taste of Home's Holiday & Celebrations Cookbook Annual 2011, p153
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