Mom's FINNISH COFFEE BREAD
1. Scald milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs and enough flour to make a batter (about 2 cups). Beat until the dough is smooth. Add about 3 cups more of the flour and beat well; the dough should be quite smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter and stir in well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and cover with an inverted mixing bowl. Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and satiny. If you like raisins, add them now to taste (appx 1 cup). Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, turn the dough to grease the top, cover lightly and let rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Punch down and let rise until almost doubled (about 30 minutes). An oven with a pilot light is a good place to let the dough rise, otherwise a sink full of warm water works.
4. Turn out again onto a lightly floured board, divide into 3 parts, then divide each of these parts into 3 parts. Shape each into a strip about 16 inches long by rolling the dough between the palms and the board. Braid the 3 strips together into a straight loaf, pinch the ends together and tuck under. Repeat for the second and third loaves. Lift the braids onto lightly greased baking sheets and cover with clean dish towel. Let rise for about 20 minutes (the braids should be puffy but not doubled in in size).
5. Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 15 minutes until lightly browned then lower temperature to 350 and bake for 10 or 15 minutes more. Do not over bake or bread will be too dry.
6. When cooled slightly brush with syrup and sprinkle with sugar. Make syrup bringing 1/2 cup water or leftover coffee and 1/4 cup sugar to a rolling boil.
7. Plan on 4 hours to complete.
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