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This tender fine crumb lightly sweet bread is perfumed with delicious cardamom and is the taste of my childhood. I always make it around Easter but my great aunt made it weekly. I would come home from school and our house was laced with the scent of it in the oven.
Ok enough about my childhood, let’s get baking this beautiful loaf!
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together yeast, 2 cups flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly add milk and stir until it’s almost smooth. The dough will be the consistency of a sticky cake batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.
Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, butter, salt, and cardamom. Change from paddle attachment to dough hook. Then you will add the remaining 2 cups flour. Knead until smooth. (You might have to finish the kneading on a floured surface for a few minutes.) Place dough in a greased bowl if your mixing bowl is sticky, cover, and let rise again until doubled, which will take up to an hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Then braid the dough as follows:
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. I always use flour sack pastry towels for dough to knead and shape. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick.
I use a pizza cutter for the scoring and lines. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections. Don’t cut all the way through; these lines will just be a guide. Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.
Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line. Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line. Continue braiding, alternating sides. Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other.
Place dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar . Let rest for another 20 minutes. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, covering with foil during the baking period if the top starts to brown too much. Let cool a bit before serving. Slice with a serrated knife. I like to enjoy it at room temp with cool butter on top. Others in my family like it toasted with melty butter.
Adapted from Lingonberry jam.