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3/4 cup plain or butter-flavored shortening, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon almond extract (or flavor of choice)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or flavor of choice)
Sliced toasted almonds or assorted sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in ricotta and extract. In another bowl, whisk 5 cups flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in final 1 cup flour by hand.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Roll each into an 18-in. rope. Place ropes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and braid. Pinch ends to seal; tuck under braid. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes (do not overbake). Remove to wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, beat confectioners' sugar, milk and extract until smooth. Brush on bread while still warm; top with sliced almonds or sprinkles.