From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This Serbian recipe uses only basic ingredients to prepare a lovely Christmas loaf. It is one of the plainest Christmas breads I've encountered, and other than its unique and beautiful braid, the one thing that sets it apart from a standard loaf of bread is the amount of butter used in its preparation. In Serbia, the bread is baked with a coin in it, and whoever gets the piece that contain the coin is thought to have luck and success in the coming year. I love the way this bread is shaped and I use it to braid other types of bread during the year. If you are looking for a plain loaf that has great visual appeal, give this bread a try. Here is how it is made and formed.
Cesnica (Serbian Christmas Bread)...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of The New York Times
4-1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
2-1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
9 tablespoons melted butter
1) Stir together flour, salt, sugar, yeast, melted butter and one beaten egg in a mixing bowl. Pour warm milk and water into the flour mixture. Mix everything with a spoon.
2) Transfer dough to counter and knead for about 10 minutes. Add more flour if needed.
3) Form dough in the round shape and put in the lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
4) Remove dough from the bowl and divide in two pieces, smaller should be for braiding.
5) Form larger piece of dough into a round loaf and transfer it to a lightly oiled pan.
6) Divide smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a strand and braid. Place braid on and along edges of round loaf.
7) Brush bread with egg wash (beaten egg with a little bit of water) and cover with plastic wrap for 40 minutes.
8) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake bread for 35 to 40 minutes. The bread should be golden brown on the top. When it is done, transfer the bread to a rack to cool down. Yield: 1 loaf
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