How to make a beautiful loaf of Braided Sweet Bread! This bread is soft & fluffy with just the right touch of sweetness. If you're nervous about baking with yeast I walk you through all of the steps in detail and include a step-by-step video!
4 - 5cupsbread flour or all-purpose flour¹(500-625g)
coarse sugar or granulated sugarfor sprinkling on top (I use about 3 Tablespoons)
Combine milk and water in a heatproof bowl and heat in 30-second increments until mixture reaches a temperature between 105-115F (40-46C). Always stir before temping!
Pour milk mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in yeast and one teaspoon granulated sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until a foam cap has formed on the surface (if mixture does not foam you will need to start over).
Once foamy, add remaining ⅓ cup sugar, melted butter, egg and egg yolk, salt, and 2 cups (250g) of flour and stir well to combine.
Gradually add additional flour while stirring (if using a stand mixer use a dough hook on low-speed) until dough clings to itself and forms a ball that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl (scrape bowl as needed). You may not use all of the flour indicated, or you may even need more, go by texture (and see the video if you need visual clues)! When ready, the dough should be slightly tacky to the touch but not so sticky that it cant be managed with your bare hands.
If using a stand mixer, stir on low speed with dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If working by hand, transfer dough to a clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes).
Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough inside, turning to coat the entire surface lightly with oil. Cover and allow to rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in size (1-2 hours).
When dough has doubled, gently deflate and divide into 4 even pieces. Roll each into a 15” rope.
To Make the Braid:
Lay the 4 strands beside each other on a baking sheet/cookie sheet (I do not recommend lining with parchment paper). Rather than start from one end of the bread and work to the other, I always start from the center (this helps ensure an even braid). I find it helpful to mentally label these pieces 1, 2, 3, and 4 (with 1 being your piece to the far left and 4 on the far right).
Starting from the center, weave strand 4 over the piece beside it (3), beneath the next one (2) and then over the left-most strand (1).
Repeat this process, always starting with your furthest-right piece, keeping the strands snug.
Once you reach the end, press/smash the ends together tightly and fold underneath the braid. Then turn the baking pan 180 degrees and work from the center to complete the other side, following the same steps as above.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel and allow the bread to rise again for 30-40 minutes in a warm, draft-free place. While it is rising, preheat your oven to 375F (190C).
Once bread has risen again, lightly brush with reserved egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar (or regular granulated sugar) and bake for 20 minutes or an instant-read thermometer reads 190F (87C). Enjoy!
¹Bread flour will yield a chewier bread, but I’ve used both flours with great success in this recipe.