Place 2 cups of raisins into a bowl. Pour boiling water until the water covers the raisins. Let it soak for 15 minutes. Then drain the water and rinse the raisins. Set aside until ready for use.
Next, heat milk in a small saucepan to just barely warm over a stovetop burner on high temp (for about 30 seconds or so). Transfer the milk into a small glass bowl. Add ¼ cup of sugar and stir well until the sugar is dissolved.
Sprinkle yeast over milk, stir it in, and set it aside in a warm place to proof for 15 minutes.
Melt butter and set it aside to cool.
In the electric mixer bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high for 10 minutes or until foamy and pale yellow in color.
Reduce mixing speed to low and mix in the yeast mixture.
Continue mixing on low while adding salt and vanilla extract.
Then add melted butter, continue to mix.
Finally, add raisins, switch to dough hook attachment, and add flour 1 cup at a time until all 6 cups of flour are incorporated. (It takes about 15 minutes for the dough to form well.)
Dough Rising Time
Let the dough rise in a warm environment for 2 hours.
How to Braid Sweet Easter Bread
After the dough tripled in volume, transfer it onto a working surface (I use a large cutting board) dusted with flour. Split the dough in half.
Take one-half of the dough and roll into a log again. Split it into four equal pieces.
Roll each of the four smaller pieces into thin, long logs (about 1.5-foot-long and 1 inch thick).
Pinch the ends of all four thin logs together.
Braid them into a nice and even braid as it is shown in the picture (I have video instructions on my Instagram account under Easter Bread bubble on how to make and braid this bread).
Pinch the opposite end of the braided loaf together, then place on a greased pan.
Making Egg Wash and Brushing Instructions
Using a hand whisk, whisk egg, and milk together until all incorporated.
Brush the egg wash generously over the top of the challah.
Repeat the same steps with the second half of the dough.
Let the braided challah's rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes to an hour. It will expand nicely and close the gaps.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Bake each pan for 25 minutes or both pans for 30 minutes rotating them 10 minutes before baking time ends.
Remove from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
Lastly, it's now time to enjoy the delicious bread with a little butter spread and some tea or a cup of homemade latte!
I prefer to line baking pans with parchment paper for baking; it's easier to separate the bread from the paper than the pan. After they're finished baking, the egg glaze runs down the loaf and gets stuck to the pan pretty firmly. Parchment paper goes a long way to alleviate that headache.
The dough has enough flour when it's not sticking to the spatula or fingers even it may look and feel too soft.
Sweet Braided Easter Bread with Raisins https://www.valyastasteofhome.com/sweet-braided-easter-bread-with-raisins/