3 tbsp or 3 packages dry yeast
2½ cups very warm (not lukewarm) water
Pinch of sugar
15 cups all-purpose flour
1½-2 tbsp salt
½ cup honey
6 extra-large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup cinnamon and sugar mixture (optional)
Egg and water for glazing
In a Large glass container, proof the yeast in 2 cups of the water. (It is important that the water not be lukewarm, especially in winter.)
Place the flour and salt on a floured flat surface and make a well in the center. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, put the yeast mixture in the well and begin to stir flour from the inner edge of the well into it.
Add the honey to the well and stir in more flour from the edge of the well. Break the eggs one by one and stir into the well. Blend the remaining flour with the ingredients in the well. The dough should be sticky. If is it not, add more water.
Either knead by hand for about 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny, or divide the dough into 6 parts and run each part in the food processor, using the steel blade. When the dough forms a ball, it is done. If it is too sticky, add a little flour to the mixture in the food processor; if it is too dry, add a little water. Finished dough should be tacky to touch.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. (Use margarine for greasing in winter)
Heat the oven to 140 degrees F. Turn the oven off and let the dough rise in it until doubled in bulk. This should take 45-60 minutes.
Take 3 of the balls, knead well, shape in oblong balls, and place in greased loaf pans.
If desired, you can roll out the fourth roll into a rectangle, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and spread a cup of raisins over it. Roll, starting at the shorter side, jelly-roll fashion, and press the dough together into an oblong form. Place in a fourth loaf pan.
With the remaining 2 loaves (or all 6 if you prefer), make your Friday night or Rosh HaShanah hallah. Work the remaining ¼ cup raisins into the dough at this point, if desired. Divide each ball into 4 pieces. Make a ball of each piece. Then pat the ball down very hard with your hand. Roll, jelly-roll fashion, once, press down, and roll again. Then with your hands, roll out to make a snake about 12 inches long. Repeat with all the remaining balls.
Place 4 rolls side by side. Press the top ends together and start braiding. Take the outside braid, place it over the nearest one and then under the next. Then, before braiding the opposite outside rope, pull the braids tight. This is important, because it makes the braids higher during baking and thus gives a lighter, higher loaf. Continue braiding and tuck in the ends.
For Rosh HaShanah and the first Saturday of each month, gently work the braids into a circle and pinch the ends together. If you want a spiral effect, see the Pain P