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Sponge (yeast starter):
* 1 cake or 2 pkg dry yeast
* 1 t sugar
* 1/8 t saffron
* 3/4 C warm water
* Bread ingredients
* 8 - 9 C sifted flour
* 1-1/2 t salt
* 3 T sugar
* 3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
* 1-1/4 C lukewarm water
* 1/2 C vegetable oil
* 1 T oil for bowl and pans
* 1 C raisins, softened in hot water, drain and pat
* dry (optional)
* 2 T honey, warmed slightly


Make the sponge: In a medium glass bowl combine yeast, sugar and saffron in warm, not hot, water. Let stand five minutes until thick and bubbly.

Bread: Sift flour. Stir 1-1/2 C flour into yeast mixture, blend well. Cover with a towel; let rise 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine 4-1/2 C of remaining sifted flour, salt and sugar. Form a well. Mix in eggs, remaining 1-1/4 C water, oil and yeast mixture. Stir in as much flour as needed to form a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a large, clean, oiled bowl; turn dough so top is also oiled. Cover, let rise two hours until doubled. Punch down dough; knead in raisins on a lightly floured surface for five minutes.

"Take challah."*

Divide dough in half, roll each half into a 2-inch thick smooth rope, 18 inches long or longer; coil dough into a circle with a large knob on top. Place on an oiled baking sheet or in two 10-inch round pans. Cover, let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400° F; brush challah once with warm honey, bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F. Brush with warm honey while baking. Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. Cool; remove from pan, cool on rack, store airtight or freeze.

*"Take challah" refers to an olive-sized piece of dough, removed from the dough mass, to be burned before the final rising. It represents the Temple offering by the priests. The burning of the challah remains the "woman's obligation" and should be accompanied with an appropriate blessing during preparation.



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