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Basic Pull-Apart Challah

['2 ounces (1/4 cup) active dry yeast', '2 cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar', '6 cups warm water (90° to 100°F)', '1/4 cup kosher salt', '6 pounds high-gluten (bread) or all-purpose flour', '4 large eggs, separated', '1 1/4 cups canola oil', 'Cooking spray', '1/2 cup sesame seeds', '1/2 cup poppy seeds']

1. Bloom the yeast: Dissolve the yeast and 3 tablespoons sugar in 2 cups of the warm water in a medium bowl; set aside to bloom. If the yeast doesn't bloom after 5 minutes discard the mixture and start over.
2. Place the salt, flour, and the remaining 2 cups sugar together in a very large bowl and stir together. Add the 4 egg yolks. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast mixture and the remaining 4 cups water. Start kneading together; add 1/2 cup canola oil. Knead for 10 minutes, adding 1/2 cup canola oil, a small amount at a time, to create a workable dough. The dough will become a cohesive mass yet be a bit sticky. Rub a little of the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil over the top and sides of the dough. Loosely cover the dough with a kitchen towel and place the bowl in a warm spot for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes, the dough will have relaxed a bit and should be easier to work with. Lightly oil your hands and knead the dough again until smooth and satiny, 2 to 3 minutes. Rub a little oil over the top and sides of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and place the bowl in a medium garbage bag. Place the open end loosely underneath the bowl to trap air. Let the dough rise in a warm dark corner of your kitchen until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Uncover the dough. With lightly oiled hands, punch the dough down to release air. Cover again with the bag, loosely tucked under, and let rise for 1 hour.
5. Divide the dough into five equal parts, about 2 pounds each. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray five 9-inch round baking pans with cooking spray.
6. Place one piece of dough on a smooth work surface. Squeeze out any air bubbles from the dough and roll in into a 12-inch rope. If the dough is sticking, lightly spray your work surface with cooking spray. Cut the rope into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place one ball in the center of the prepared pan and surround it with the remaining balls. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough so you have five pans of challah. Loosely cover each pan with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise 15 minutes. (If you can't fit all the pans in your oven at once and you want your challahs to be as beautiful as possible, shape the remaining dough while the first round of challahs are in the oven so they don't see rise for too much longer than 15 minutes before baking.)
7. Beat the egg whites with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and brush the challahs. Sprinkle each with sesame or poppy seeds or a combination of the two.
8. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake until tops are dark golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes more. Let cool 15 minutes before serving warm, or cool completely on a wire rack.

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