1 and 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
8 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk, lukewarm
4 ounces butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground mahlep
1/2 teaspoon salt
Egg wash: 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten
Sliced almonds for garnish
Combine the first four ingredients: yeast, milk, sugar and flour in the bowl of your tabletop (stand) mixer. Let sit for 10 minutes until yeast blooms.
Combine melted butter, milk, sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add to the yeast mixture.
Combine flour, salt, orange zest and mahlep in a large bowl.
Attach the dough hook to your mixer and turn on the lowest speed. Slowly add your dry ingredients (flour, zest, salt and mahlep). Allow the mixer to knead the dough for 8 minutes until it becomes fairly smooth. It will not be completely smooth until after it rises, so do not over knead it.
Note: You may also knead the dough by hand if you do not have a stand mixer. Increase the kneading time to 10-12 minutes if using your hands. It will still be delicious. Just be careful not to add more flour. It may be easier to knead the dough in a very large bowl.
Place the kneaded dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled. This takes 1 and 1/2 - 2 hours. The warmer it is, the faster it will rise :)
Cut the dough into 6 equal parts.
Roll each part of the dough out into long ropes (about 12-14 inches long). Form 2 braids.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place each braided loaf onto a tray.
Set aside and allow to rise until doubled in size. About 1 hour.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a beautiful mahogany color appears on top of the loaves.
Allow the bread to cool and rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing it.
The baked bread may be stored in the freezer until ready to eat in the future, so it is worth making extra :)
By the way, this delicious bread makes amazing French toast!!