In a small saucepan, over medium-low temperature, heat the milk, butter and almond extract. The temperature of the milk mixture, using an instant-read thermometer, should be between 120°- 130°F.
1½ cup whole milk, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon almond extract
While the milk/butter mixture warms, place sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until it is well combined.
2/3 cup granulated sugar, Zest of 1 orange
Add the yeast, salt and 2 cups of the flour to the sugar/orange zest, and mix on low to combine.
2 1/4 ounce packages active dry yeast, 6 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading the bread
Add the warm milk mixture to the dry ingredients; beat on medium-low speed 2 minutes.
Add the 3 beaten eggs and beat 2 more minutes.
3 large eggs
Gradually, add the remaining 4 cups flour and beat until a soft dough forms. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
6 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading the bread
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead (adding extra flour as needed) about 6-8 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.
Place the dough upside down in a lightly buttered, large bowl and then gently turn it upright making sure the entire surface is buttered. Cover the bowl, with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1½ hours (depending on the warmth of your kitchen).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch down the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Cut it into thirds and gently roll each third into a 20-inch-long rope. Transfer the ropes to the prepared baking sheet and press the ropes together at one end. Braid the ropes together and tuck the ends under. Cover the braided loaf with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. This will prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the dough. Let the dough rise until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour).
While the braided dough rises, heat oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, lightly beat together one egg and water. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle the loaf with almonds and pastel sprinkles. The loaf will spread when baking, so sprinkle the majority of the almonds and sprinkles toward the middle of the loaf.
1 large egg, 1 tablespoon cold water, 1 cup Honey Roasted sliced almonds, 1 tablespoon pastel sprinkles or nonpareils
Bake the bread 40-55 minutes or until it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Transfer the bread to a cooing rack and cool 30 minutes before slicing.