Czech Christmas Bread (Sváteční Vánočka) is the Bread of the Month for the Artisan Bread Bakers. This bread is similar to the Vanocka Christmas Braid I made last Christmas. It is made with an enriched dough; however, this version utilizes the straight dough method rather than incorporating an overnight sponge. David of www.hearthbakedtunes.com graciously shared his recipe (which he adapted from Daniel Leader’s bread). I adapted the recipe a little bit further to suit my tastes.
As David so aptly put it, “This recipe makes a uniquely crusty, tender and tasty bread that is perfect for the Holiday Season! It also makes incredible French toast. The combination of the sweet raisins and the toasted almonds is a force to be reckoned with! Enjoy!”
Czech Christmas Bread
Adapted from: www.hearthbakedtunes.com
Makes: 1 large braided loaf
- 7.4 oz Almond Milk (warm)
- 2 large egg yolks*
- 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 13.35 oz (3 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1.5 oz (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1.6 oz (3 tablespoons) pure cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3.2 oz (~2/3 cup) dark raisins
- * I used the reserved egg white for the egg wash
- 1 teaspoon Sugar for sprinkling on top
- 0.9 oz (1/4 cup) slivered almonds
1) Mix the Dough: Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined. Add the yeast, flour, butter, sugar and salt, (Do not add the raisins at this point) and mix on first speed for 3 minutes. Then increase to third speed and mix for an additional 3 minutes. Add the raisins and mix on first speed until they are completely incorporated and evenly distributed throughout the dough. Place the dough in a clean large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
2) Bulk Fermentation: Let the dough proof for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Fold after 45 minutes, then let the dough proof for an additional 45 minutes.
3) Braid the Loaf:
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.
Form three ropes. Don’t make the ropes too long. They should be long enough to braid, but be able to fit on your baking sheet.
Form the braids using the 3-strand braid method. Start by overlapping the strands in the middle. Then braid from the middle to one end and pinch the ends of the braid to seal the braid.
Flip the braid (or walk around the table) and continue braiding until you reach the other end of the braid.
Pinch the ends together and place the braid on a greased baking sheet.
4) Final Proof: Cover the braid with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1 – 1 /2 hours.
5) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
6) Brush with egg wash and add toppings: Right before you’re ready to bake the loaf, brush the bread with the egg wash and sprinkle sugar over the top. Then top with the sliced almonds.
7) Bake the Loaf: Bake the loaf on the middle rack of the oven for 30 – 40 minutes. If the top starts to get too dark before the loaf is baked all the way through, tent it with foil. This bread will burn easily because of the egg wash and sugar on the top. Not to mention the raisins.
8) Cool the Loaf: Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
9) Slice and enjoy! This bread does make good French toast. It’s not too rich or sweet so it also goes well as toast spread with butter and served with eggs for breakfast.