Houska - Czech Braided Bread

This "Kansas Festival of Breads" champion is from Rose Wahl, Wheaton, Kansas


  • ½ cup warm water (105°-115°F)

  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast

  • 1½ cups whole milk, scalded and cooled

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground mace

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 8 - 8½ cups bread flour, divided

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1 cup seedless golden raisins (soaked 5 minutes and drained)

  • ½ cup chopped or slivered almonds

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon water 


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, mace, eggs and 3 cups of the flour to make a batter. Set aside.  

  2. Sift 5 cups flour into a large mixing bowl. Thoroughly blend in butter.  

  3. Stir down the batter; add lemon zest, raisins and almonds. Add to flour mixture. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead 10 to 12 minutes by hand or with a dough hook until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl; cover; let rise until doubled. Punch down; divide in half; cover; let rest 10 minutes.  

  4. To shape, divide each half into 10 pieces: 4 larger pieces; 4 slightly smaller pieces; and 2 small pieces. Roll all pieces into 16-inch ropes, tapering the ends.  
    Step-by-step photos and shaping instructions

  5. Place the four largest ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid. Pinch ends together. Using the side of your hand, indent the center of the braid lengthwise. Braid the 4 smaller pieces and lay this braid lengthwise on top of the first braid; indent again. Twist the final two pieces together and lay on top of second braid. Pinch all ends together and tuck underneath the loaf. Fasten ends and top with about 5 toothpicks so the loaf will hold its shape during baking.  

  6. Cover; let rise until doubled. Beat egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush on braids. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature registers about 200°F. If top browns too quickly, tent with foil. Cool; remove picks.  

Yield: 2 loaves, 16 servings each.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING (1 SLICE, 73g): 240 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 35mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 11g sugars,  6g protein, 66mcg folate, 0mg vitamin C,  2mg iron.

Recipe tested in the Kansas Wheat Commission “Speak for Wheat” Test Kitchen by NFOB co-directors Cindy Falk, Nutrition Educator, and Julene DeRouchey, Nutrition Educator Assistant.