There are two kinds of people in this world: bread people and non-bread people. The bread people (and I know their kind well. I am one) are those who will gladly have two, or even three, rolls with dinner. They'll fill up on buttery, doughy goodness at restaurants that give you rolls to munch on while you look at the menu. At a pizza joint, they'll think nothing of snatching the last breadstick. They would never, ever, ever give up carbs.
This is for all you bread people.
These sweetbreads aren't nearly as complex as they look. As a matter of fact, its almost impossible to screw up this recipe. My recipe makes about 10 almond sweetbreads, so feel free to halve the ingredients if you have a small family or aren't a complete pig like I am when it comes to bread.
Braided Almond Sweetbread (Prep time: 1 hour 25 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes)
2 and 1/4 cups water
3/4 pack fast acting yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
7.5 cups flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Start by dumping the yeast into a large bowl and adding 2 cups warm water. The great thing about fast acting yeast is that you don't have to proof it. I usually proof it anyway, just to be safe, but I didn't have time to do that today and the rolls still turned out fabulous. Because you're not proofing the yeast, it will tend to clump together just to scare you. Be brave, and don't let it smell your fear. It will work, even when it looks like this:
Add the sugar, oil, salt and 2 of the eggs. Mix until well blended. Add 7 cups of flour, one cup at a time, and mix well. At this point, your bowl of scary yeast-water should have yielded forth a nice, sticky dough.
Track down your child and wash his/her hands well. Tell your child that the neighbor's garden gnomes stuck into the house and laid tiny little eggs in the flour. Ask your child to beat the dough until its smooth to make sure those gnome eggs don't hatch.
Sit back and watch. Feel very satisfied with yourself for getting out of kneading the dough. Eat a cookie.
Add the last 1/2 cup of flour (or more, if necessary) as the child kneads the dough to keep it from getting too sticky. Don't worry about adding too much flour. Like I said before, you really can't screw this up. Once the dough is smooth, form it into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl to rise. I like to put a bit of oil on a paper towel and rub it over the top of the dough ball for good measure.
You don't need to cover the dough. Just sit it in the microwave for an hour to rise. It goes without saying that you should not turn the microwave on while the dough is in there. After an hour, take the dough out and punch it down. We are not going to do a second rising because we are lazy.
Preheat the oven to 375. Start pulling clumps of dough from the dough ball and rolling them into strands roughly six inches long with your hands. When you have three strands, braid them together and pinch the ends. Arrange the sweetbreads on a greased cookie sheet. Or, if you'e a piglet like me, two greased cookie sheets.
Crack the last egg into a small bowl. For the love of all that is holy, please pick out the disgusting little chicken fetus. Please. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water and whisk with a fork until you've got a nice, frothy egg wash. Brush each sweetbread with a small amount of the egg wash. If you don't have a food brush, dip a paper towel in the egg wash and wipe the top of each sweetbread with the paper towel. Remember, it doesn't take much.
Sprinkle the sweetbreads with the sliced almonds. They'll stick nicely to the egg wash. Put the pan of bread in the oven at 375 for 15 minutes. If your oven is like mine and rivals the pits of hell at 375, you might be able to get away with cooking the sweetbreads for a mere 10 minutes. Take them out when they're golden and the crust begins to harden and flake.