This recipe is from Hubby's mom. Their family traditionally made it at Christmastime.
2 packages dry yeast
½ cup warm water (110-120 degrees)
1 ½ cup warm milk (same temp as above)
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs (room temp – important)
¾ cup softened real butter
7 ½ cups flour (may use a little less 7 cups? Depends on how sticky or dry it is)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (may use any citrus you have)
¼ teaspoon mace
1 ½ cup raisins, may chop or leave whole
1 cup chopped almonds, pecans or none, if preferred (then add a few more raisins)
Dissolve yeast in warm water, then mix with the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter, half the flour, lemon zest, mace, raisins, and nuts. Keep adding flour until dough is smooth and workable. Knead on a floured board until smooth and elastic. (10 minutes) Put in a greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm spot to rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down. Divide in half. Set one half aside and divide the other into 4 equal parts. Shape three of the pieces into 14 inch long strands and braid on a lightly greased cookie sheet (You may want to arrange this diagonally. These get big!). Fasten ends together and tuck under. Take fourth piece and divide in thirds and make a second smaller braid to go on top of the first. Repeat with other half of dough on a second greased cookie sheet. Cover each braid loosely with damp tea towels and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown, but not dark.
When loaves have cooled completely, decorate with a frosting of:
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup soft butter
1 t. vanilla
½ t. almond extract
Beat all together with just enough milk or cream to make a nice spreadable frosting. Spread on tops of braids and gently press halves of drained maraschino cherries and pecan halves on top.
Makes two large, 2-layer braids; serves 12.