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Is a braided sweet bread that is eaten year round in Austria but especially popular for Easter. My Omi used to bake one every year and we would enjoy it on Easter Sunday, usually slathered with butter and apricot jam, with a piping cup of coffee. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Photography by Robert Demetrius

You will need:
4½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
¼ cup of warm water
1 cup melted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup warm milk
½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup raisins
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Start by dissolving 2 tablespoons of dry active yeast with ¼ cup of warm water. To proof the yeast, stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar from the ¾ cup of sugar and let it stand for 10 minutes. You will see it rising and when you do, it’s a sign that the yeast is active, which is exactly what we are looking for.

Proofing Yeast

Soaked Raisins

While waiting for the yeast to rise, soak ½ a cup of raisins in some water for 5 minutes. They won't clump together when adding to the dough later on and they also plump up a bit and get juicy. When they are finished soaking, drain them so that all the excess water is removed. I usually leave them in a sieve, settled over another bowl until I need them. That allows it to drain even further.

In a large mixing bowl, blend 4 cups of flour and ½ teaspoons salt together. Make a well in the flour in the center of the bowl and set-aside until ready.
Melt 8 ounces of butter, which will yield a cup of melted butter and warm ¾ cup warm milk.
Sugar, Eggs and Lemon Zest
In another bowl add the remaining sugar, 1 egg and 1 yolk, along with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Don’t throw out the remaining egg white, you will need it to brush on the Striezel before baking.
Creamy Mixture
Mix the sugar, eggs and lemon zest until you have a nice creamy mixture. Once this is done, pour in the melted butter, warm milk and blend.
Flour, Creamy Mixture and Yeast
By now, the yeast is ready for use. So pour the sugar, egg, lemon zest, butter and milk mixture into the well and pour the yeast on top of it and start mixing. I know the dough may be a bit sticky, that’s why I have reserved ½ cup of flour.

Kneeding the dough
On a clean surface, sprinkle some flour and put the sticky dough on top of the flour, sprinkling a bit more flour onto the dough and kneed until the dough is no longer sticky, but has an elastic texture, whilst adding the raisins into the dough. Once the raisins have been incorporated, place the dough back into the large mixing bowl and proof for an hour. 
Dough Proofing in the Oven
I put my dough in the oven and covered the bowl with a dishtowel so it could rest.

Dough Ready
An hour later, Take the dough from it’s resting place and should have risen and should be soft to the touch.

Pre-heat your oven to 300° Fahrenheit.

Cutting Into Three Equal Pieces
Once again, sprinkle some flour on a clean surface and place the dough on the flour. Kneed again. Then you will need to separate the dough into 3 equal pieces. 
Three Rolls
Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Move the 3 long rolls to the baking tray to make the braid. 
Making a Braid
Once the braid is done,whisk the remaining egg white and brush on the braid, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds.

Brushing Egg White on Striezel

Sprinkling Sliced Almonds
Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Check to ensure that the Striezel is properly baked, sticking it with a long, thin bamboo stick or toothpick. If it comes out dry, then you know it’s done.

Ready to Enjoy!
If done, remove the Striezel and place on a rack to cool. VoilĂ ! What a lovely way to start your Easter morning. Enjoy.

Look out for another recipe that will be following shortly!

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