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Braided European Raisin Bread

This recipe was in my mom’s files from Chef Louis Szathmary who was the owner of The Bakery, a delightful and delicious restaurant in Chicago. If you were fortunate to have eaten at The Bakery, you know that Chef Louis and his wife, Sada, were two very special people.

small-Louis-and-Sada
Chef Louis and Sada

Szőlős Kalacs ~ Braided European Raisin Bread
[I confess I have not made this recipe yet. But this year I will–for sure! I have been nervous about baking fancy sweet breads but my intention is to make it for soon! Maybe today since we don’t have much on the schedule!]

1/2 cup white raisins
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch salt
4 TB sugar
2 eggs
1 pkg dry yeast (1 TB)
1/2 cup warm water
4-6 TB melted butter
sugar

1. Soak the raisins in lukewarm water for 1 hour. Drain and dry them in a towel. Sift the flour and set in a warm place.
2. Scald the milk; add the salt and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Cool to room temperature.
3. Separate 1 egg and set the white aside. Beat the other whole egg and the egg yolk lightly and add to the cool milk.
4. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water; then add the milk-egg mixture.
5. Place the flour in a large bowl. Mixing with a wooden spoon, add the yeast mixture.
6. Stir with the wooden spoon until the ingredients are combines; then turn the dough out onto a floured pastry board and knead until the dough is smooth and begins to blister.
7. Press 4 to 5 holes into the dough with your fingers and distribute 1 Tablespoon of the warm butter in the holes. Knead again until the butter is thoroughly mixed in. Repeat this procedure until all the butter is incorporated.
8. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place. As it starts to rise, sprinkle 1/2 – 3/4 Tablespoon of flour over the top. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.
9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Sprinkle the entire surface with the raisins; then roll the dough jelly-roll fashion. Fold the two ends to the middle; then start to knead again.
10. Once the dough is smooth again, form into a ball. Divide the ball into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces into even-sized ropes, using the palms of your hands.
11. Secure the 3 ropes together on one end and then braid them together. When the braiding is finished, press the ends together, then tuck under the dough to secure it.
12. Brush a baking dish with shortening and place the braided milk bread in the dish. Dust the surface with flour and let it rise again.
13. Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.
14. Bake the bread in the preheated over for 15 minutes.
15. With a fork, beat the remaining egg white with the remaining Tablespoon sugar. Brush the top of the bread with this mixture and, if desired, sprinkle sugar crystals over it. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes.
16. Let the bread cool on a rack for 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Do not cut while warm or texture will be rubbery.

Chef’s Secret: Warming the flour for this dough will improve the texture of the bread. Adding the butter in small amounts and kneading after each addition will help to distribute the butter evenly throughout the dough and will also improve the texture.

This is a soft dough. The raisins not only add to the flavor but they also absorb a part of the moisture in the dough during baking.

If you are interested in learning more about Louis Szathmary, check out this blog titled Sandy’s Chatter as she does give a very nice summary.

If you make this recipe, take a photo and send it to us! We would love to see it!