Adapted from Joan Nathan via Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1 /2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing bowl
1 tablespoon salt
8-8 1/2 cups flour
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional (I used regular and black sesame seeds)
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cup lukewarm water (between 100-115º).
Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. Whisk in remaining sugar and salt, then gradually add in flour until dough holds together. You can both mix and knead in a large Kitchen Aid mixer, using the whisk attachment first, then the dough hook to knead.
Knead dough on a floured surface till smooth. Clean the large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot till almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough, cover again with plastic and let rise again in a warm spot for about a half hour. You can use your oven heated to 150º then turned off for proofing your dough.
Take half the dough and form it into 3 balls. Roll each ball out into a long strand. Braid by pinching the ends of the three strands together, then moving the right strand over the middle strand, then the left strand over the middle strand, then the right strand over the middle, etc. Pinch and tuck the ends under the loaf. Repeat with other half of dough. Place on greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
Beat remaining egg and brush on the loaves. Let rise another hour.
Preheat oven to 375º. Brush loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake 30-40 minutes or till golden (do not over bake). Internal temperature should be 190º if you want to test with an instant read thermometer. Cool on racks.
Dough can be frozen after first egg wash. Defrost 5 hours before baking.