Named after my Grandma Rosie, this recipe is the best you've ever tasted, period. First-time bakers and pros alike get fabulous results, no matter what.
This recipe was adapted from Karen Kwitter, an astronomy professor at Wiliams College.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl. In a large bowl mix oil, sugar, and salt.
Add the boiling water to large bowl and stir until all is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast into a measuring cup with the warm water. Wait a few minutes, then stir.
Add the cold water to the oil and sugar mixture in large bowl. The oil mixture should now be the right temperature to add yeast. If it's too hot, wait a few minutes; if too cold, put the bowl in the microwave to heat it. Add the yeast to the large bowl.
Add the beaten eggs to large bowl, reserving about 1 tablespoon.
Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed (but not too much). The dough is ready when it springs back after being poked with a finger. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with dishtowel, and put in warm oven (heated to 170-200, and then turned off beforehand) until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 1-2 minutes. Divide the dough into thirds. Take one of the thirds, and knead for another minute. Form into 8-12 small "snakes" for bulkies, or 3 large snakes for braid. Make the bulkies by knotting each small snake and pinching the ends together. Place the bulkies close together pinched-end down in greased pan. For braids, pinch ends of 3 large snakes together and begin braiding. Pinch the ends together when done.
Place in greased round pan or loaf pan. Repeat the process for the 2 other thirds. Put the formed loaves/bulkies into the oven (pre-heated to 170-200 again and then turned off, as before) for about 45 minutes.
Remove from oven. Turn oven to 350. Brush tops gently with reserved egg. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes (loaves) or 20 minutes (bulkies). Times will vary. Watch for moderate browning on top, but be careful not to allow scorching on bottom. Remove the challah from the pans, and put on dish towels to cool.