Recipe from the Darby Family, Charleston, South Carolina
2 cups milk
2½ cups sugar
2 sticks butter
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon mastiff powder or 1 teaspoon crushed anise seed
4 packages active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water
6 eggs, well beaten
16 cups flour, divided
Milk or egg wash
In a heavy saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, butter, salt, and mastihi powder or anise seed. Cool to lukewarm.
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Beat eggs until light and fluffy in a large bowl. Slowly beat in milk mixture, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well. Transfer batter to a large deep bowl. Working in increments, add more flour with a wooden spoon, adding only enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Dough may be sticky.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll to coat with flour. Cover with a cloth. Let rise for 10 minutes. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased deep pan, turning to coat. Cover with wax paper and cloth. Let rise in a warm place for 3 hours until doubled in size. Punch down. Knead a few times.
Divide dough into five portions. Shape into braided loaves. Place on a large greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 325. Brush tops of loaves with milk or egg wash and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 minutes. (If loaves are on the large side, they may need 35 minutes for golden brown.) Loaf will sound hollow when tapped. If loaves brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Remove from pans and cool.