5 pounds sifted all-purpose flour
2 ounces fresh yeast
2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 1/4 cups warm water (add an additional 1/4 cup for softer dough)
3/4 cup oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir. When bubbles rise, the yeast has activated. In your mixer, combine the salt, 2/3 of the flour, oil, sugar, yolks, water and the activated yeast last. Set the machine on medium for 12 minutes. When you see the dough begin to form, add the remaining flour into the mixer and continue mixing.
Transfer the dough to a very large well-greased bowl, cover with plastic and allow to rise in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours or until double in bulk. (Optional: punch dough down after 1 hour and let rise again)
Separate the challah and make a blessing. Form the dough into a braid or whatever shape your family has traditionally used.
Six-Braided Challah Divide the dough into 4 parts to make 3 large challahs and 6 small challah rolls. To make a six-braided challah, divide one large part into 6 small sections. Roll each section out to a 12 inch strand. Connect the strands on top and place two strands to the right, two to the center and two to the left. Pull the center left strand up and the center right remains down. Grab the inner center right strand and the inner left strand and pull the outer left strand under. Pull the center left strand up and the center right strand down and then grab the center right strand and the inner right and pull the outer right strand under. Pull the center left strand down and the center right strand up and grab the inner center left and the inner left and pull the outer left strand under. Repeat “down and up and under” til you reach the end. Then take your six strands and tuck them neatly under the challah.
Three-Braided Challah Divide a large piece of dough into 4 parts. From 3 parts roll out three 12 inch strands. Divide the fourth part into 3 and roll out three small strands. Braid the large strands as if braiding hair until you form your challah. Then braid the smaller strands into a mini challah. Place the mini on top of the larger challah.
After you have formed your challahs allow them to rise for 20 minutes in greased baking dishes. Paint the challahs with beaten egg yolks and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for the first 15 minutes then, reduce to 350 degrees for another 30 to 45 minutes.