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.
Heat milk in a small saucepan to just barely warm over a stove top burner on high temp (for about a minute). 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 in a cup for 30 seconds, and set it aside to cool.
In the electric mixer bowl, beat eggs and 1 cup of sugar on high, for 10 minutes.
Reduce speed to low and mix in the yeast mixture.
Continue mixing on low while adding salt and vanilla extract.
Add melted butter, continue to mix.
Add raisins. Switch to dough hook attachment. Sift flour and add 1 cup at a time until all 6 cups of flour are incorporated. (It akes about 15 minutes for the dough to form well.) Transfer the dough onto a working surface (large cutting board) dusted with flour.
Coat the dough with flour. Place it into a large bowl dusted with a little more flour and let it rise in a warm environment for 2 hours.
After the dough has tripled in size, transfer it from the bowl back to your floured working surface (cutting board) and roll it into a thick log. Split the log into two equal pieces.
Take <g class="gr_ gr_225 gr-alert gr_spell gr_run_anim gr_inline_cards ContextualSpelling multiReplace" id="225" data-gr-id="225">one half</g> 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 <g class="gr_ gr_227 gr-alert gr_spell gr_run_anim gr_inline_cards ContextualSpelling" id="227" data-gr-id="227">logs</g> (about 1.5 foot long and 1 inch thick).
Pinch the ends of all four thin <g class="gr_ gr_216 gr-alert gr_spell gr_run_anim gr_inline_cards ContextualSpelling" id="216" data-gr-id="216">logs</g> together.
Braid them into a nice and even braid.
Pinch the opposite end of the braided loaf together, then place on a greased pan. Make the egg glaze and rub it over the top of the loaf. Repeat the same steps with the other half of the dough. Let the braided loaves 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 loaf separately for 25 minutes. (The loaf and the pan are too large to fit both into one oven. If you have double ovens, as I do, bake them one in each oven, at the same time.) Remove from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan. I like to line the pans with parchment paper for baking; it's easier to remove the bread from the paper than the pans. 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.
Lastly, it's now time to enjoy the delicious bread with a little butter spread and some tea or a cup of coffee!
Sweet Braided Ester Bread with Raisins https://www.valyastasteofhome.com/sweet-braided-easter-bread-with-raisins/