8 cups bread flour
2 pkg granulated yeast, Rapid Rise or Regular
1 1/2 cups water, preferably filtered
2 sticks margarine or butter
5 drops liquid yellow food coloring
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds, optional
1 tbsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup raisins, optional
EGG WASH: 1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 7 cups of the flour and the yeast; stir.
2. Heat water, margarine, food coloring, sugar, poppy seeds and salt in a saucepan until very warm (140F). Water should be uncomfortably hot to your finger but not hot enough to burn you.
3. Add the warm liquid mixture to the flour while the mixer is on low. As the liquid is being incorporated, add the eggs, Mix thoroughly, about 3 minutes.
4. Gradually add the remaining flour only until a fairly firm dough is formed; this process should take about 5 minutes whether you are using your mixer or are kneading it by hand. The mixture will be satiny smooth. Add raisins, if using, and incorporate evenly.
5. Preheat your oven to 400F for 1 minute. Lightly grease a bowl with oil and turn the dough in the bowl to oil all sides of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a turned off oven until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
6. Punch down the dough and divide in half or thirds. Roll each portion into a long rope. Hold one end two inches above work surface and then wrap rest of dough around to make a large coil. Pinch ends together to prevent unraveling when baking. Place formed breads on parchment paper or greased cookie sheets. Let rise until light and doubled, about 25 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. When the bread is done, it will be golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.