I don’t know who Aunt Anna is…probably my mom’s aunt or maybe even her great aunt, but her bread will live on in my family for generations if I have anything to do with it. I’ve been eating this bread since I was a baby and making it for about 12 years now. It is DIVINE. You could just call it “Challah with raisins” because, well, that’s basically what it is! It’s soft, chewy, a little bit sweet and best the day it’s baked with a hefty smear of good butter. I make three gigantic loaves every year for our Easter party and it is gone within 30 minutes, long before even the pierogies! I feel funny sharing this recipe even though it’s not secret. It feels a tiny bit sacred to me, but if it’s going to live on, I may as well share how to make it.
Aunt Anna’s original recipe makes a lot of bread, and it doesn’t fit in a mixer because I imagine she was using a bowl, spoon and really strong arms…so I’ve worked these measurements out to make one big loaf in a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
AUNT ANNA’S EASTER BREAD
makes 1 large loaf
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water (about 100 F)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
- 3 cups flour plus more for mixing and kneading
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 shake of ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 beaten egg mixed with a little water
- Combine water, yeast and the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and set aside to proof.
Mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and a shake of cloves in a mixer on low speed with a dough hook. Add the milk, eggs, oil, and yeast mixture and mix until combined. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a dough forms but is still quite sticky. Add the raisins. Mix on low speed for 5-8 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few times until a soft elastic ball forms. Rise covered in an oiled bowl for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down and let rise again, covered, until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and cut into 3 even pieces. Roll each piece into a long, 20 inch (or so) snake. Form the 3 snakes into a braid, pinch and fold under the ends and rise again, covered, on cookie sheet for about 45 minutes. Brush with the egg wash and bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes or until deep shiny brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool slightly before cutting.
Here’s a looonnnng video of me making it in case you want a more detailed view of the dough and process!