Houska

HOUSKA

This is a lightly sweetened, traditional bread from Czechoslovakia. It can be sliced and served plain or with butter and jam. Leftover, dried slices work fine as French toast.

Makes 1 large loaf
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar plus a pinch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup warm (not hot) water
2 packages active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of ground mace
5-1/2 to 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds
Vegetable oil

For finish:
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup whole blanched almonds

  1. Heat milk; add shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm.
  2. Measure warm water into a mixing bowl. Add pinch of sugar. Sprinkle in yeast; stir to dissolve. Let stand until bubbly. Add milk mixture, eggs and mace.
  3. Add 3 cups flour; beat well. Add raisins and slivered almond. Beat in another 2-1/2 cups flour. Turn dough onto lightly floured board. Knead several minutes, adding a bit more flour to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Brush a large bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or waxed paper and a clean cloth. Set aside, away from a draft; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough down; turn onto lightly floured board. Knead several times. Cut dough in half. Divide one half into three pieces. Roll each piece into a strip about 12 to 16 inches long. Butter a large baking sheet. Place three strips on baking sheet and braid. Using your fist, press an indentation along the center of the braid. Brush with butter.
  6. Divide 2/3 of the remaining dough into thirds. Roll and braid as before. Set atop first braid, nestling in the middle. Press indentation along center of second braid. Brush with melted butter.
  7. Shape remaining 1/3 of dough into a braid. Set atop loaf; stretch ends so that they can be tucked under each end of the loaf. Pinch braid ends at each end of the loaf together. Use toothpicks as needed to hold braids in place. Cover lightly and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 375°F. Beat egg with water, Brush surface of loaf with egg glaze. Garnish with whole almonds. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. Note: If loaf browns too fast, reduce oven temperature to about 350°F. Remove from oven. Cool before slicing.