|Don't fret about the braiding--it will look and taste delicious no matter what. Well, except if you accidentally use salt instead of sugar, which Natalie can tell you all about ;)|
The best flavor is achieved by using whole cardamom pods. Remove the green husks and save the brown, irregularly shaped seeds from inside. Crush with a mortar and pestle (or in a ziploc with something heavy).
4 ½ to 5 ½ cups unsifted flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 eggs (reserve the white of one egg for egg wash later)
2 Tbsp milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Slivered blanched almonds
Approximately 3 1/2 half hours
In large bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup sugar, salt, lemon peel, cardamom, and undissolved yeast. Combine 2/3 cup milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm (butter does not need to melt entirely). Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixture (or by hand), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs, and ½ cup flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scrapping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make dough soft (1-2 cups).
Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside. Shape remaining 3 pieces into ropes. Braid ropes together, pinch ends to seal. Place onto a large greased baking sheet. Divide remaining dough into 2 parts. Roll into ropes. Twist together. Pinch ends to seal. Place on top of braid. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for 1 hour, or until doubled. Brush loaf with 2 Tbsp. milk beaten with 1 egg white. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and almonds.
Bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then in 5 minute increments, until the loaf is deep golden brown and 180-190°F internally (took 40 minutes in my oven). Remove from baking sheet and place on wire rack to cool.
|Amazing with butter and honey on top. Or goat cheese and apricot jam. Or practically anything.|