Challah (Braided Egg Bread)
4 large eggs
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup of water or low-fat milk, heated to 120-130 degrees F
5 to 5 1/2 cups flour (half unbleached all purpose, and half hard wheat white)
2 envelopes of yeast
1 teaspoon of water
2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
Optional: pinch of saffron
Lightly grease a large bowl and baking sheet. Set aside. Combine 4 eggs, sugar, salt, butter and oil in a mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly blended. Dissolve saffron (if using) in a little water or milk and add to mixing bowl. Beat in 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast. Continue beating for two minutes, then add additional 2 1/2 cups flower or enough to make dough soft. Turn out onto lightly flowered board and kneed until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to coat entire surface of bread with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a hot, damp towel and let rise until doubled in volume. Punch down and let rise again until doubled in volume.
Beat the one remaining egg with 1 tsp. of water. Set aside. Place dough on lightly flowered board and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a 12 inch roll, and lay 3 ropes parallel. Begin braiding, make braids very loose. Pinch ends together securely. Repeat with remaining ropes. Place loaves on baking sheet and brush with the egg and water mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. Preheat oven to 350. Bake loaves until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when knocked. This will be about 35-45 minutes. Cool on racks.
Source: Nancy Brown's kitchen