1 1/2 cups warm water 2 tablespoons yeast 1/2 cup sugar 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons vanilla 1/2 teaspoon mahlep powder* (or almond extract) 2 eggs 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 5–6 cups bread flour Parchment paper *Mahlep powder is a Turkish seasoning made from ground cherry pit centers. TOPPING 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted 1/2 cup sugar 1–2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 cups fresh (or frozen) pitted Balaton cherries OR a mixture of tart and sweet cherries (halved and whole)
In a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together water and yeast. Let stand a few minutes then stir in sugar, salt, vanilla, mahlep powder (or almond extract), eggs, butter, and most of the flour. Stir until you have a soft mass. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes to form a soft dough, adding more flour as required. Form dough into a ball and place it in a well-greased bowl. Cover, and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has risen, gently deflate and flatten to fit sheet. If it springs back, let it rest a moment then coax to fit sheet. Insert entire sheet in a large plastic bag. Let rise 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously brush dough with the melted butter. Generously dust with sugar and cinnamon and then scatter cherries on top. Bake until bread is golden and cherries are softened and oozing, 45 to 55 minutes. Cut into slabs to serve. Serves 10 to 12.