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Houska

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces raisins
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Stir yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar into the warm water in small
bowl, let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in center and add 1 cup of the milk and the yeast
mixture. Stir until smooth. Cover and place in a warm spot, let
rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Combine remaining milk, remaining sugar and butter in a small
saucepan. Heat gently until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm. Add
to risen dough. Stir in enough of remaining flour to make a soft
dough. Mix in raisins.

Turn dough onto a floured board. Knead until supple and elastic,
8 to 10 minutes. Return to large mixing bowl, cover and let rise
until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough. Traditionally, houska is shaped as a three-strand
braid but it also can be shaped into an oblong free-form loaf.
Shape as desired and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover loosely
and let rise until doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush top with egg yolk and sprinkle
with almonds. Bake at 375 degrees until nicely browned, 35 to 40
minutes. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

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