Apricot, Plum and Cardamom Braided Yeast Bread
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, yeast and 1/3 cup sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
In a separate bowl, combine 4 cups of flour, salt and cardamom. Add the flour mixture and 2 of the eggs to the mixing bowl. Using the dough hook, combine on medium low speed until the flour is mostly incorporated. Add the butter and knead to combine. Continue kneading for 8-10 minutes, adding the remaining cup of flour, as needed, 1/4 cup at a time. Dump the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Dump the dough out onto a floured surface. For one very large loaf of bread, divide the dough into 3 "ropes" about 16 inches long. For two to three smaller loaves, divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces, then divide each of those pieces into 3 ropes.
Place the ropes of dough side by side and braid them from one end to the other. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Tuck the ends of the dough under. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
The bread is delicious warm from the oven, and is best eaten the day it's baked. Leftover bread can be used for french toast or a custardy bread pudding.
Yields 1 big loaf or 2-3 smaller loaves.Adapted from Figgy Cardamom Bread, page 68, Williams-Sonoma "Home Baked Comfort".