This is a family favorite.
Step 1: Ingredients and Mixing Procedure
3 cups of good bread flour
2 packs of regular dry yeast- or use fresh yeast if you can get it
3 tbs of sugar
1 tsp of salt
3 tbs of margarine, butter, or cooking oil
1 cup of water- 78-82dg depending on room temperature
1 cup of raisins- a little more or less is OK-they are added when the bread is almost finished mixing, or they will break up in the bread. This is not good.
I used a bread machine on the regular setting, but this can be made by hand or in a stand mixer. The flour quantity(or water) may need to be adjusted slightly depending on the flour quality and the egg size. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. If the dough is too dry at 2-3 tbs of water- if the dough feels too sticky add 2-3 tbs of flour. Hand mixing should take about 8 minutes, before adding the raisins. Try to keep the dough temperature at a minimum of 78dg to 82dg. Temperature is the most critical thing many bread bakers fail too check. If the dough is too cold it will not rise and the flavor will not be right. Proper fermentation is very important. The water temperature can be adjusted to accommodate cold room temperatures or warm room temperatures.
Step 2: The Mixed Dough
The mixed dough should be kept warm, in the bread machine, or in a bowl with a towel. It should rest for about 80 minutes.
Step 3: Making the Loaves
Traditionally this is a braided bread, but it can be make round, or in a loaf pan. I cut the dough into 8 pieces to make 2 loaves, but one big loaf would also work. Divide into 8 pieces, round them up slightly, and allow to rest (covered) for about 5 minutes. Roll them longer by hand and press the ends of 4 pieces together. A four piece braid is not that easy, but it does not need to be perfect. The finished loaves should look like the picture above.
Step 4: Pan
I bake mine on a pizza pan with foil. Any flat cookie sheet or a loaf pan will work.
Step 5: Let It Rise
The time will vary depending on dough and room temperature, but should take about 45 to 60 minutes. This is how it should look when it is ready for the oven.
Step 6: Baking
Bake in a 380 dg oven for about 30 minutes, until nice and brown, but not burnt. The sugar and eggs will cause this bread to burn easy if you do not watch it. I turn mine in the oven for a more even bake. This can be egg washed (this one is not egg washed) before baking, but I prefer to brush it with a little butter after baking to give a nice shine.