8 CUPS FLOUR -sifted after measuring
3 PKGS YEAST
2 CUPS WHOLE MILK – divided
8 EGG YOLKS
1 ½ CUPS SUGAR
2 TBS FRESH COARSELY GRATED ORANGE ZEST or more to taste
2 TBS FRESH COARSELY, GRATED LEMON ZEST – or more to taste
1 CUP BUTTER – melted
1 TB SALT
HARD BOILED EGGS – dyed for decorating – amount optional
8 EGG WHITES – beaten to almost stiff peaks
In a bowl dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm milk. When dissolved add the remaining warm milk and mix well. Add 1 cup of flour and mix well. Sprinkle top lightly with flour and set aside in a warm draft-free place to rise.
Add salt to the egg yolks and beat until light and foamy. Then add the sugar and coarse zests to the egg yolks and mix well until all combined. Add 2 cups of flour to this alternating with the milk yeast mixture and mix well. Add remaining flour (5 cups) and the melted butter and continue to knead until the dough comes away from your hand. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites and knead lightly.
(You can do all this in a heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook. Otherwise, you can do this by hand in a large bowl.)
Set in a warm place and let rise until double in size – about 2 hours.
Separate dough into 3 equal parts. Roll each dough piece into long a long strip and then use each strip to braid into a loaf. (If you prefer you can divide dough into 6 parts and make 2 loaves.)
If you want to decorate the top of the bread with the dyed hardboiled eggs, save a bit of the dough to make thin strips to crisscross over the tops of the eggs to anchor the eggs firmly to the loaf. Let bread rise again.
Place in an oven that has been preheated for at least ½ hour to 375º. Bake for 25-30 minutes for the smaller loaves and 40-45 minutes for the large loaf. The top should be golden brown when ready.
NOTE: if you want the loaves to be shiny, beat 1 egg with a little water and carefully brush each loaf before putting it in the oven. I just use regular store-bought Easter egg dye. But you can also make you own coloring by mixing food dye with water. Sometimes, I put candied fruit bits in the dough instead of the zest.