One 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface and kneading
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the bowl
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 lightly beaten for egg wash
1/3 cup sliced skin-on almonds
1 tablespoon mini white nonpareils
1. Pour 1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk in the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the flour and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside until bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edges, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter, the remaining sugar and the salt. Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
3. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, set on medium-low speed and pour the milk mixture into the yeast mixture. Add the 2 beaten eggs. Gradually mix in the remaining flour, and beat until a soft dough forms. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball, about 5 minutes (the dough will be sticky).
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead, adding more flour as needed, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly buttered large bowl, cover and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and cut it into 3 equal parts. Gently roll out each piece into a 16-inch-long rope. Transfer the ropes to the prepared baking sheet. Press the ropes together at one end, braid them, then gently tuck both ends under to form a long loaf. Cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the entire loaf with the remaining beaten egg. Scatter the almonds and nonpareils on top, concentrating them down the middle of the loaf (they will spread as the loaf bakes). Bake until the loaf is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool about 30 minutes before slicing.
Cook’s Note: When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)