Braided Cardamom Easter Bread Ring
1 1/3 cups milk warmed to 110°
2/3 cups sugar
3 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
3 eggs lightly beaten
6 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. sea salt
5 Tblsp. unsalted butter (at room temp.) cut into 1/2 " cubes
1 Tblsp. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 Tblsp. turbinado sugar
egg sized stones (1 for each member of your family)
-Butter a ceramic bowl and set aside. Combine milk, sugar, cardamom and yeast in a mixer with a paddle fixture. (If all you've got is a hand mixer with the standard blades, just use those and augment your mixing with hand kneading. Don't fret over lack of equipment. Fingers are the finest tools of all.) Stir and let sit 10 minutes. Add eggs and mix. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Replace paddle with a hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for two minutes. Slowly add butter and knead for about four minutes more.
-Transfer dough to the greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm location until doubled in size (about an hour and a half). Punch down the dough, cover and allow to rise another 30 minutes or so.
-Heat oven to 375°. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and divide into three equal pieces. Roll each portion between your palms or on the board to create three ropes each about two feet long. Braid the three ropes together and bend into a ring joining the beginning of each strand to the ends. Place the loaf on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.
-Wrap each stone in parchment paper and nestle the stones into the bread braid at even intervals. Cover the ring and allow it to rise in a warm location for another 45 minutes or so.
-Whisk together the cream and egg yolk and brush it over the braided ring. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and bake until golden brown (about 20 - 25 minutes). Cool and remove the parchment wrapped stones.
Leave the loaf on the breakfast table the day before Easter and the Hare ought to come and fill it with specially decorated eggs in the night...