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Three Kings Cake

These traditional loaves are served on The Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. A token is hidden in each loaf. You can use an almond or a clean coin as the token, but often people use small symbols such as a baby shoe charm, a tiny wedding bell, or a ring to denote the kind of luck that the finder will have in the coming year.

3 packages or 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup raisins, currents, or candied fruit
Cinnamon-sugar for garnish

Sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the warm water. Add two tablespoons of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow mixture to proof in a warm place for 10 minutes. The yeast will be very bubbly and may overflow the bowl if it is too small.

In a large bowl combine the unsalted butter, the hot scalded milk, and the remaining sugar. Stir in the salt and grated peel.

Beat three eggs and add them to the butter mixture, making sure that it is no longer very hot. Then add the yeast mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat in the two cups of flour to make a smooth batter. Then add remaining flour using a bread hook on the mixer or kneading the flour in as the dough becomes stiff. The dough should be smooth and elastic when it is ready to rise. This will take about 10 minutes of kneading. Place dough in a greased and floured bowl and cover. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down and knead to remove all air pockets. Work in fruit until it is evenly distributed through the dough. Divide dough in half and shape two circular loaves, hiding a token in each one. Place loaves in greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Brush tops of loaves with an egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar across the surface of each. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for ten minutes and at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks.