Babi's Houska

From the kitchen of: Erynn Hedrick Hassinger, designer. My family has made this sweet bread (pronounced "buh-bee's hoe-ska") every Christmas I can recall. My great-grandmother--we called her "Babi," which means "grandmother" in Bohemian--tried many recipes before settling on this one. She passed the holiday task on to my mom and me. Although Grandpa usually sneaks a few pieces on Christmas Eve, we typically save the bread for breakfast on Christmas morning and use it to sop up eggs Benedict. If it lasts long enough, it's great for toasted ham sandwiches, too. My mom always adds more raisins (the whole box!) because Grandpa just can't seem to get enough.

Prep: 30 minutes; Stand: 2 1/2 hours; Bake: 35 minutes.

Yield: Makes 10 servings
Recipe from MyRecipes

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 10 tablespoon butter, plus more to brush top of houska, if desired
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, plus more if desired

Preparation

  1. 1. Combine milk and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat. Heat just until small bubbles appear around edges. Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted; add salt. Let mixture cool to warm.
  2. 2. Dissolve yeast in about 1/4 cup warm water. Transfer milk mixture to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add yeast mixture, and beat in 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks. Add 3 cups flour and mace, and beat until smooth. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add remaining 2 to 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition, until smooth and elastic, not sticky. Add raisins, and mix well to combine.
  3. 3. Sprinkle a little flour over dough, place in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  4. 4. Place dough on a floured surface, and divide into 8 balls: 3 large (softball-size), 3 medium (tennis ball-size), and 2 small (slightly larger than golf ball-size). Knead each ball well. Roll large balls into 16-inch ropes, and braid together. Place on a baking pan. Repeat with medium balls, and place braid on top of first braid. Repeat again with small balls; place braid on top of second braid. (You may need to secure ropes with toothpicks to avoid slippage during rising and baking.) Cover and let rise 1 hour.
  5. 5. Preheat oven to 325°. Brush houska with melted butter, if desired. Bake at 325° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
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