4 1/2 – 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 egg white
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; blend well.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water, vanilla extract, and butter until very warm (120°F.)
Add warm liquid and 4 eggs to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened. Then beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Stir in an additional 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl.
On a floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1-cup flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 35 minutes.
Grease large cookie sheet.
Punch down dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide dough in half; dived each half into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into 14-inch rope. Braid 3 ropes together; seal ends by pressing firmly together.
Place on greased cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of dough. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 15 to 25 minutes.
Heat oven to 400° F. Uncover dough. Bake 10 minutes. Brush with mixture of egg white, vanilla bean, and 1 tablespoon water.
Return to oven; bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire racks.
Baker’s Secret 10-by-16-Inch Nonstick Cooling Rack, Set of 2