(This picture was taken after I nibbled a bit off of the other side -- it came out of the oven without the crack.)
For one loaf, you'll need:
+ lukewarm water, 2/3 cup
+ dry yeast, 1 (.25-ounce) package
+ sugar, 1/8 cup + 1/4 cup (separated)
+ 4 eggs
+ oil (grapeseed, vegetable, or canola), 1/3 cup + extra for bowl
+ honey, 1/8 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, sifted, 4 cups + extra for dusting
+ poppy seeds or sesame seeds, 1-2 tablespoons (optional)
Combine water, yeast, and 1/8 cup sugar; rest for 5 minutes. The mixture should be thick and foamy; set aside. Using a bread hook, combine 3 eggs, remaining sugar, honey, oil, salt, and yeast mixture. Sift together flour and cake flour, and slowly incorporate into wet ingredients.
Place dough in an oiled, nonreactive bowl. Lightly oil top of dough; cover loosely with plastic wrap and a dishtowel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down -- rise for 1 hour. Punch down again -- rise for another hour. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a hard, lightly floured surface.
Beat reserved egg. Braid challah (this is a great instructional video) and apply a thin layer of egg wash. Rise, covered, for 1 hour; in meantime, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Apply remaining egg, and, if using, sprinkle with poppy / sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes; cool and enjoy!