Santa Lucia Crown Recipe
½ cup warm water
2 tsp. dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
½ cup sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. saffron powder
4 cups flour
3 eggs, small
FOR ICING AND DECORATION
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla
Red and green glacé cherries
Pour half the warm water into a large warm bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron, and half the flour; blend well. Stir in two eggs and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.
Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; reserve 1/3 of dough for top of crown.
Divide remaining dough into three equal pieces; roll each to 25-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal.
To shape top of crown, divide reserved dough into three equal pieces; roll each to 16-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on separate greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal.
Cover both braids; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.
Lightly beat remaining egg; brush on braids. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until done (small braid) and 25 minutes or until done (large braid). Cover large braid with foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove braids from baking sheets; let cool on wire racks.
To make the icing, combine the sifted powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir until smooth.
To decorate the bread, make six holes for candles in the small braid. Place small braid on top of large braid and use toothpicks or icing to fasten it.
The cake easily serves 20-30.
—from Ernst Shuegraf’s Cooking with the Saints