Vanočka: Czech Christmas bread

The baker's heart in me was filled when kind friends shared a family recipe for this delicious bread.

Heaven may smell like fresh vanočka! It is a Czech Christmas bread, usually only baked around this time of year and the only way I can describe it is a cross between Challah and hot-cross buns, braided into a beautiful loaf. It's full of festive spices like ginger and anise, decorated with rum soaked raisins and peeled almonds, braided and baked into a gorgeous loaf that risks being devoured in hours! I had the privilege of being taught how to make this wonderful bread by one of the masters herself, Maruška Jordanová, whose homemade vanočka I tried for the first time last year. The Jordanoví kindly came to my house with a dough already prepared and all the ingredients to show me how to make a new batch. So after some educating videos on how to braid dough with 5,6,7...up to 9 strands, we got to work.

Gathering ingredients.

Fresh yeast! I had never encoutered this before, but it worked like a charm.

So many egg yolks!

Adding them to the mix.

The cast of spices.

Kneading the dough because my kitchenaid couldn't handle it!

Letting it rise.

Braiding time! We did 7 strands this time....I can still hear us chanting, "over one, under two"!

After the second rise, brush that baby with an egg wash!

Perfection. If only you could smell it!