Heat butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted; let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Whisk together water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top and whisk until combined. Cover with a tea towel and let it sit, until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar and salt. Add cooled milk mixture, yeast mixture and 2 of the eggs and whisk until smooth, about two minutes. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, using a rubber spatula once dough begins to form into a ball. Once all flour has been added, turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about five minutes.
Grease a large bowl with butter and add dough. Turn dough to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about two hours.
When ready to roll and shape, remove dough from bowl and punch it down, patting it into a flat rectangle on a work surface. With a rolling pin, continue to flatten the rectangle until it is roughly 12 by 16 inches. Using your hands, press dough into an even thickness.
Place dough so that the longer side is parallel to your body. If using raisins and anise, add now, distributing evenly on top of dough.
With your hands, roll dough into a tight tube, making sure it's an even thickness from end to end. Pinch tube along its crease to seal it. Gently roll tube back and forth to smooth. Leave it crease side down on work surface.
Attach both ends of the tube to make a ring and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size, about one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush risen dough all over with egg. Using a razor blade or thin sharp knife, make Xs about one inch deep on top of ring and pull slashes apart slightly with your hands.
Place baking sheet in oven and mist inside of oven with a spray bottle. Bake bread until deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack before serving. Kim ODonnel, Baking Good Luck Charms for St. Joseph, What's Cooking? A Mighty Appetite, March 18, 2008; accessed January 17, 2014.
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