Total time: Approximately 3 hours.
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking.
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 c warm water + 2 Tbsp warm water
4 tsp sugar + 1/2 tsp sugar
3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of saffron
In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2 Tbsp warm water. Set aside 3-5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a deep well in the middle of the flour. Pour in yeast mixture, egg, oil and saffron. Combine and beat well until all the flour appears incorporated and a ball of dough forms. Set aside 10 minutes.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead 6-10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Shape into a ball and place dough into a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or saran wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).
Punch down (do it!) and turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into three pieces and roll each piece to form a tapered cylinder about two feet long. Braid them together and tuck in the ends. Place braided dough onto a lightly greased or lightly floured cookie sheet to rise (about an hour).
Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 9 minutes. Turn the pan around and turn the heat down to 375F. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until darkly golden.
Some people like to brush their breads with egg to make them look pretty or develop a certain sort of crust. Eh… I guess it depends on if you’re trying to impress someone. We normally eat it so fast it doesn’t matter.
I like to put a brownie pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven when I bake this bread. Keeping the humidity up in your oven will help your bread to cook more evenly and keep the temperature in the oven from fluctuating too much. So I hear.