* 2 pounds bread or unbleached all-purpose flour (8 cups)
* 2 yeast cakes or 2 packages dry yeast
* ½ cup lukewarm water
* 6 medium, cooked, mashed potatoes (about 3 cups), still lukewarm
* 1½ teaspoons salt
* Poppy seeds
1. Place the flour in a large bowl, making a well in the middle. Stir in the yeast and ½ cup water. Add to the well a small amount of the flour, about 3 tablespoons. cover and let the "starter" stand in a lukewarm place until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
2. Add the potatoes, salt, and more lukewarm water if needed. Knead the dough about 10-12 minutes or until it separates from the bowl and is as firm as possible. Alternatively, divide in fourths and whirl in a food processor, using the steel blade. Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Place in a medium-warm, draft-free spot, and let stand until the dough has doubled (from 3-5 hours).
3. When the dough is ready, place it on a floured wooden board and split it into 4 parts. Make a long loaf of one part and divide one other part into 3 pieces. Roll the 3 pieces into long ropes as thick as a thumb and braid them. Place the braid on top of the long loaf, pinching down to attach. Repeat with the 2 remaining parts. Cover the hallah and let rise once more for about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
5. When ready to bake, sprinkle the top with water and then with poppy seeds.
6. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour on a greased cookie sheet or until the hallah is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped with the knuckles.
Note: You can also divide the dough into 4 portions, 2 larger than the others. Divide larger portions into 3 pieces and braid. Then divide smaller into 4. Braid 3 of the pieces and place on larger braid. Roll out last piece and press down lengthwise on braid. Repeat.