Growing up, one of my best memories was making this bread with my father and brothers. I remember my father stretching and pulling and then braiding the bread. We had a lot of fun making it together as a family. One of our family traditions was to put a fifty cent piece in the bread and whoever got it would have good luck in the coming year.
Here is the recipe:
Custom dictates that eggs, dyed a scarlet red, be baked in the braided crown of this Greek Easter bread.
3 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/3 cups light brown sugar
1 cup milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
7 large eggs, 3 left whole and dyed red
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Make the dough: Coat a large bowl with oil and set aside. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in the heated milk in a small bowl. Combine 4 1/2 cups flour, the remaining sugar, zest, anise, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
Add the 4 undyed eggs, the yeast mixture, and the melted butter and continue to mix on low speed until a firm dough forms, adding more flour if necessary (or combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a firm dough forms).
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until it is soft and elastic -- about 10 minutes. If mixing by hand, knead the dough for 10 more minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to the prepared bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil.
Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume -- about 1 hour.
Shape the loaf: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Punch down dough, turn out onto a lightly floured board, and divide into three equal parts, approximately 15 ounces each. Using the palms of your hands, roll out one piece to create a 2 1/2-foot-long rope.
Repeat with the remaining 2 dough pieces. Braid the three strands together and seal the ends under each other to create a circle. Transfer to a baking sheet. Place the dyed eggs, evenly spaced, in the grooves of the braid and the coin for good luck (optional). Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled -- about 40 minutes.
Bake the bread: Brush the loaf with the beaten egg white and bake until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped -- about 30 minutes. Transfer the finished loaf to a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.