Can a disenchanted Spartan aristocrat and his Jewish wife find freedom from their oppressors in ancient Greece and then in exile in Jerusalem? Can they find solace from their ordeals through their separate religions of worshipping multiple deities and faith in one invisible God? The adventures of this highly unusual couple reveals many of the contradictions, rivalries and mysteries of the ancient world while coming to a dramatic and shattering end.
About 1 teaspoon poppy or
sesame seeds for sprinkling
Steep the raisins in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove the raisins (they can be disgarded or reserved) and mix in the honey, then reserve the water for the dough.
Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the warm water in a bowl. Let stand until the mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
Combine the yeast mixture, the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, oil, eggs, salt, the reserved raisin soaking waters, raisins (if using), and half of the flour in the bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat until fully combined. Slowly add the remaining flour, beating to create a soft, sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double in volume, about 2 hours.
Grease a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and braid if desired, or form it into a round about 9 inches diameter. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush the challah with the egg wash. If desired, sprinkle the top with the poppy or sesame seeds. Bake until well browned, abut 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before cutting.