Challah is baked especially for the Sabbath and religious holidays. This version is adapted from a recipe that appears in From Generation to Generation, a cookbook complied by the Sisterhood of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.
3 packages dry yeast
2 c. warm water
8 c. unbleached flour, divided
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) margarine
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 - 2 c. additional unbleached flour, if needed
1 egg, well beaten (for glaze)
1 T. poppy seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
Dissolve yeast in 2 c. warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 3 c. flour and 1 c. sugar. Stir with a fork, cover bowl, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
In another bowl, combine 5 c. flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Add margarine, and cut with a knife or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.After yeast mixture has risen for 30 minutes, add 4 beaten eggs, and stir well. Add flour-margarine mixture, and work into yeast mixture with a sturdy wooden spoon. (If your mixture has a dough hook, you can use it for this step.) If sticky, add 1 1/2-2 c. additional flour.
Turn onto well-floured surface, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a large, well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.Punch dough down, turn out onto a floured surface, and knead lightly for 1-2 minutes.
Divide dough into 3 pieces, and roll into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide. Transfer strips to lightly greased baking sheet. Braid strips, tucking ends under each end of loaf. (Braid may also be cut in half and place in two 9x5x3-inch lightly greased loaf pans.) Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 3-5 hours, or until at least doubled in bulk.Brush loaf with well-beaten egg, and sprinkle with poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
From the March 1997 issue.