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Festive Easter Braid

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5 cups (1 1/4 l) whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp (30 g) fresh yeast or 1 package dry yeast
3/4 cup (185 ml) Rapadura sugar
1 1/3 cup (310 ml) heavy cream, room temperature
2 free range eggs
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
1 cup (250 ml) raisins (optional)
1/2 cup (125 ml) blanched almonds, slivered (optional)

If you use fresh yeast, dissolve it in one tablespoon (15 ml) cream and one teaspoon (five ml) sugar. Place flour in bowl. Make an indentation and pour yeast mixture in. Sprinkle yeast with a handful of flour, just enough to cover. Cover bowl with a clean towel and place in a warm spot. Let sit for 10 minutes. If using dry yeast follow directions on the package.

Mix sugar, cream, one whole egg and one egg white, vanilla extract and lemon zest and add to flour. Knead either by hand or in kitchen machine until dough is well kneaded, for about five minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes to one hour until dough has doubled in size. Add raisins to dough and separate into three equal pieces. Form each piece into a roll 20 inches (50 cm) long. Braid and form a wreath by joining the ends of braid.

Grease or cover cookie sheet with baking paper. Place wreath on sheet and let rise for another 15 minutes.

Mix remaining egg yolk with half a tablespoon (eight ml) of milk. Brush wreath with egg yolk mixture and cover with slivered almonds. Bake in preheated oven at 200°C (400°F) for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in wreath comes out clean and when tapping the braid sounds hollow. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Wrap in cellophane paper or plastic and keep in a cool dry place until ready to serve. Keep in mind that breads baked with yeast taste best when served fresh.

Source: alive #222, April 2001

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