Mama Bossy's Easter Braided Loaf

Is there anything in the world more satisfying and comforting than baking bread? It's so basic. Of course I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel after cooking something with 50 steps or baking something incredibly fussy, but I love everything about making bread. For me, it's especially the moment when you're kneading the dough with your hands, and it's a little crumbly or shaggy, and then all of a sudden it isn't: it's stretchy and shiny and smooth. You've transformed it with your hands. And then the anticipation, the slight panic that maybe this time it won't rise, the relief when it inevitably doubles in size like it's supposed to. And the smell! The aroma of baking bread wafting through the apartment feels like home to me.

At the Bossy homestead it's mostly Papa Bossy who does the cooking these days, but in my childhood Mama Bossy was a baker extraordinaire. It was she who taught me how to make a braided loaf for Easter. I have such strong memories of baking this bread together. She taught me how to knead the dough, how to grease the bowl for the dough and cover it with a wet towel to help it rise, how to tap on the loaf to listen for the hollow sound that means it's done. I still make it just how she taught me.

Mama Bossy's Braided Loaf
Makes 1 big loaf or 2 small loaves

1 packet dry yeast (MB used cake yeast, but I can never find it)
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk (we used whole milk when I was little—I use skim now and it works just fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pan
4 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for flouring the board
sliced almonds

Scald (bring almost to a boil) the milk on the stove. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Put the sugar, salt, and melted butter in a big bowl and pour the cooled milk over it. Add the yeast mixture, 2 eggs, and 2 egg yolks. Save at least 1 egg white for later—I always forget and end up on a grocery run to get more eggs. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and beat thoroughly. I have successfully made this with a KitchenAid mixer, a hand mixer, and a wooden spoon, so you don't need any special tools. And 2 more cups of flour.

Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead it until it comes together nicely. Form it into a large ball.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in it, turning it over so it has butter on all sides. Cover the bowl with a wet dishtowel. Place in a warm place until it has doubled in size. You might as well walk away for a couple hours—it takes a while.

Grease a cookie sheet. Divide the dough into 6 parts (4 big, 2 small) for 1 loaf or 12 parts (8 big, 4 small) for 2 loaves. Roll out each part into a rope. Braid the 4 big pieces, and twist the 2 small pieces and lay them on top of the braid.

Mix an egg white with a little water to thin it and brush the top of the bread. This is what will give it a beautiful golden crust. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top. I like to press them in a little so they don't all fall off when they're baked. Let it rise again while you preheat the oven.

Bake the bread in a 350° oven for 45-50 minutes (a little less if you make 2 smaller loaves). Tap it—it will make a hollow sound when it's done. It's better to underbake it than to overbake it, so don't obsess too much about what sound it's making.


  1. It tastes particularly good toasted with butter and jam. I wish I had some right now!

  2. Kneading dough is certainly therapeutic for the smell of yeast breads baking!

  3. I can smell it from here! I should try baking some. Gotta have the absolutes Gehör, though, for the tap...


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