My talented husband is a fantastic beer brewer, barbecuer, and when he wants, bread maker. He put this bread together yesterday afternoon – what a treat to come home after an afternoon out!
This is a fragrant loaf, delicious for morning brunch, dessert, or with coffee. Allow yourself a half day to make this lovely bread.
In small bowl, place raisins in warm water to soak as you begin to make bread.
Proof yeast by placing yeast, a pinch of sugar, and 1/4 c. warm (not hot – test with your finger) water. The yeast has proofed when it foams – takes about 5 minutes.
In large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, and cardamom. Drop the bits of butter into flour mixture. Use fingers, pastry blender, or two knives to mix in butter until flour has appearance of coarse meal. Make a well in middle of flour, and add yeast, whole egg, and milk. Stir slowly into the outlying flour until soft ball forms. Turn out onto floured board, knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Note: be sure to knead enough to develop bread gluten.
After bread is kneaded, flatten and, after draining the raisins, sprinkle raisins across top of dough. Fold dough over to seal in raisins. Continue kneading, adding more flour if necessary. The raisins add a bit of liquid to the dough, so as you knead in the raisins, the dough becomes a bit more sticky.
Form dough into ball. Place into large, buttered bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place about 2-3 hours, or until double in size.
Punch down dough, but do not knead again, as you do with traditional breads. Divide into two balls, and then divide each ball into thirds. Roll each 1/3 ball into a strand about 15 inches long, and then use 3 strands to create a braid, Tuck ends of braids neatly under loaf. Place braids onto bread sheet to rise, loosely covered, another 2-3 hours.
30 minutes before baking, set oven rack to middle, and pre-heat oven to 350 F. As oven is preheating, make egg wash, and brush loaves with it. Place loaves in oven and bake about 30 minutes or more, until golden brown and having a hollow sound when tapped.
Cool on wire rack.