Back in my NBC days, I occasionally had some of my facebook friends join me on my segment and share family recipes. One of my favorite guest and recipes was Ida Waterous and her Houska. Houska is a traditional Czech sweet bread that made with candied cherries, golden raisins, and pecans. It’s great for the holidays and impressive with its double braid design. These make great holiday gifts, too. Thanks, Ida!

courtesy of Ida Waterous


1/2 cu Warm Water (110-115 degrees), not too hot
2 pkg Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 cu Lukewarm Milk
1/2 cu Sugar
2 tsp Salt
2 lg Eggs
1/2 cu Shortening
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cu All Purpose Flour, sifted
2 tsp Grated Lemon Rind
1/4 tsp Mace
1 cu Golden Raisins
1 cu Chopped Blanched Almonds
1 cu Candied Cherries
1 additional Egg Yolk for glazing
1/2 cu Pecan Halves
1 cu Powdered Sugar
1-2 tbl Milk


Dissolve yeast in water and set aside for 5 minutes. Then, add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening, lemon, mace, raisins, almonds half of the candied cherries and half of the flour to the yeast. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to handle easily. Turn onto a lightly flour board and knead until smooth for about 5 minutes. Roll into a lightly greased bowl and then bring the greased side up. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double takes about 1 1/2 hours. If your kitchen is cool, place dough on a rack over a bowl of hot water and cover completely with a towel. After dough has risen, punch down and let rise again until almost double takes about 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 2 portions to make 2 loaves*. Divide each portion into 4 equal parts. Shape 3 of the parts into 14” strands. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Braid loosely without stretching and tuck the ends together.

Divide the fourth part of the dough into 3 pieces and shape each into a 12” long strand. Braid these 3 strands and place this small braid on top of the large braid. Repeat with the other half of the dough to make a second loaf.

Cover and let rise until double takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix remaining egg with 1-2 tablespoons of water. Brush the braids with the egg glaze. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Wayne’s Note: if bread appears to be browning too quickly loosely tent it with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, mix powdered sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoon of milk. Add just enough additional milk to create the smooth consistency of thick syrup.

Chop the remaining cherries in half. Decorate braids with pecan halves and cherries and then drizzle with icing while still warm.

* Wayne’s Note: Rather than making 2 loaves with this recipe, I made 3. The large braids were only 10″ and the smaller ones were 8″.