Sweet Challah Bread

Recipe Adapted from Margaret Hathaway's
"For a Sweet New Year", The Spirit of Food
Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups of warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil, plus 2 tablespoon more for greasing the bowl
A few threads of saffron threads, crushed (omit if you don't have any in pantry)
3 large eggs,
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups of whole wheat flour
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water for glaze
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Makes 2 large loaves

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast,honey, and lukewarm water and let proof.

When it has turned creamy and begun to foam, after about 5 minutes, add the oil, saffron, salt, eggs, and whole wheat flour.

Using your hand, mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Gradually add the all-purpose flour, mixing in a 1/2 cup at a time.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, supple dough.

If using raisins, knead them in.

Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another hour.

Divide dough in half and cut each piece into thirds or sixths. Roll out the dough into long logs.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Uncover and brush with egg wash. For a shinier loaf, wait 5 minutes and brush with egg again before baking. Sprinkle poppy seeds or sesame seeds if using.

Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when its underside is rapped with a knuckle.