This recipe is easy and makes one large loaf. Two loaves are traditional. I use fresh eggs, gifted to me by my backyard chooks, and fantastic winter wheat flour, as I find this superior for bread making.
This recipe makes one huge loaf. You can also split this amount of dough into two and make two smaller loaves.
You may double the recipe for the normal two big loaves required for Shabbos. Read recipe completely through as there are a few additional ingredients at the end.
If making this bread by hand, simply use a bowl for the mixing of ingredients and then place on floured counter to knead. I have found that using my large mixer saves me time and produces a fabulous dough that is easy to work with. (Using the 'dough only' cycle on a bread machine will also work)
Place all ingredients, in the order listed below, into mixer:
220ml (~8 oz) warm water (44C or 110F)
1/3 cup sugar
1 pgk active dry yeast or 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
3 eggs, beaten
4-1/2 cups bread flour *
If mixing by hand: add warm water, sugar and yeast to a large bowl. Check each egg and add to a smaller bowl. Beat with a fork. Add the oil and salt to the beaten eggs.
Add the egg/oil/salt mixture to the large bowl containing the water/sugar/yeast. Begin adding the flour and then knead on a sturdy surface for 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Put this ball of kneaded dough into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size.
If using a mixer: After placing all ingredients into mixer, use the bread hook to mix and knead for 10 minutes. When this is complete, remove from mixer and place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for about an hour. When doubled in size, punch down and press out all of the gas bubbles until you have a flattened piece of dough.
Oil a baking sheet (I line mine with baking paper) with 1 T oil and a bit of cornmeal if desired for a crunchy bottom crust.
Place dough on a lightly floured board and separate into a minimum of 3 equal pieces for braiding. Roll each piece into a long rope with your hands. Then, press the ends of each rope together at the top and begin braiding, tightly, together. As you get better at this, you can do 4 or more braids together! When braid is done, pinch the end tightly together and tuck under and pinch again. Check that braid is still neat and secure at the top end. If not, separate the top and re-braid this part tightly.
Carefully place your braided loaf on the baking sheet lined with baking paper (for ease of removal).
Mix one egg with 1 Tbsp water and brush your braided loaf gently, using all the egg. Next, sprinkle your loaf, if desired, with sesame or poppy seeds.
Let rise until double in size. This should go quickly if your kitchen is warm.
Pre-heat your oven to 375 F (190 C) and bake the loaf for about 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. It should be shiny from the egg wash, and a golden yellow-brown colour.
Remove from oven and place on rack to cool.
To make a round loaf, simply braid the dough and tuck the ends firmly into each other so it makes a circle. Press ends together well so the loaf will not separate. Enjoy!