Almond Challah

Makes 1 loaf may be doubled or tripled

½ cup blanched almonds
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup pareve milk or soy milk, warmed to 100° -110°F
2 envelopes active dry yeast
4 large egg yolks
5 cups bread flour
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted margarine, melted

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon pareve milk, for glaze
About 2 tablespoons chopped almonds

In an 11 cup food processor, process the almonds with the sugar and salt until finely ground. Pour the warmed pareve milk on top but do not mix. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and allow it to dissolve and proof, 5-10 minutes.

Add the egg yolks and pulse briefly. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, pulsing briefly after each addition. With the machine on, add the melted margarine, pouring it very slowly toward the end, until most of the dough forms a ball around the blade. If necessary, add a few additional drops of pareve milk. Continue processing a few minutes more to knead the dough.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm draft-free place until double in bulk, 3-4 hours.

Punch the dough down and divide it into two pieces, one piece containing about two-thirds of the dough, the other, the remaining one-third. Now divide the larger piece into three, and, using your palms, roll these pieces into three long identical ropes. Braid the ropes. An easy way to do this evenly is to start the braid in the middle, then turn it upside down and braid the other side. Turn the ends under and press down to keep them joined together. Divide the smaller piece of dough in three and braid in the same fashion.

Place the smaller braid on top of the first braid. Transfer to a greased baking sheet, then cover with plastic wrap. Let the loaf rise until double in bulk, 1-1½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Glaze the dough all over with egg wash. Sprinkle generously all over with sesame seeds or chopped almonds. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

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