|Sophia's braided beauty, ready for the oven...|
|Ready for my mouth!|
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4c warm water (about 110°
1 t salt
1/4 c each sugar and canola oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 or 3 drops yellow food coloring, or pinch of saffron (we used this)
5 to 5 1/2c all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 egg yolk beaten with 1T water
1T sesame or poppy seed (we omit out of preference)
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in salt, sugar, oil, eggs, and food coloring or saffron. Gradually beat in about 4 1/2 c of the flour to make a stiff dough.
Turn dough out onto a floured board and kneed until smooth and satiny (5-20 min), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Turn dough over in a greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch dough down; knead briefly on a lightly floured board to release air. Set aside and cover about 3/4c dough.
Divide remaining dough into 4 equal parts; roll each between hands (or roll on counter, which is sometimes easier) to form a strand about 20 inches long. Place the four strips lengthwise on a greased (or parchment paper lined) baking sheet, pinch tops together, and braid as follows: pick up strand on right, bring it over the next one, under the third, and over the fourth. Repeat, always starting with the strand on right, until braid is complete. Pinch ends together.
Roll reserved dough into a strip about 15 inches long; cut into 3 strips and make a small 3 strand braid. Lay on top center of loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 1 hour).
Using a soft brush or your fingers, spread egg yolk mixture evenly over braids; sprinkle with seeds (if using). Bake in a 350° oven for 30-35 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Serve warm, or let cool on rack. Makes 1 loaf.