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Basic Challah - Two Loaves

Dissolve 2 pkgs. of active dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar in ¼ cup of warm water. (About 110º). Sift 6 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 T salt into a large bowl. Make a deep well in the flour and pour in yeast mixture. Combine and then add to the flour 2 cups of warm water, 3 beaten eggs, ¼ cup vegetable oil, 3 T sugar and a pinch of saffron (optional—this gives the bread a more yellowish look).  Beat well until a ball of dough forms.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. (About 10 minutes.)  Wash and grease your large bowl and place dough in it, turning once to coat all surfaces with the oil.  Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down and divide the dough in half.  Knead each portion for 3-4 minutes.

Cut each portion into three equal parts.  Roll three into long strips and lay them next to each other on a floured board.  Beginning in the middle, braid the strips loosely toward one end and then toward the other. Pinch the ends together and tuck under.  Do the same with the other three parts.  Cover and let rise until almost double.  Brush with 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 ½ T water.  Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.  Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 400º oven.  Reduce heat to 375º and bake about 45 more minutes.  

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