Queen Esther’s Crown

For the dough:

1 envelope (2½ teaspoons) instant yeast
About 3½ cups bread flour
¾ cup warm water
2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
½ cup vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar

For the filling:

1½ cups sweet onions, finely chopped and well drained
½ cup poppy seeds, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted margarine or oil

Make a yeast slurry by whisking the yeast and ¾ cup of flour together and then whisking in the warm water. Let it stand uncovered for 10-20 minutes or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk the 2 eggs, oil, salt and sugar into the puffed yeast slurry until the eggs are well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of flour all at once beginning with a wooden spoon and then switching to your hands until the mixture forms a shaggy ball. Scrape it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until smooth and soft, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl now in hot water to clean it and warm it if you want to use it for fermenting the dough).  If the mixture is too firm to easily knead, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour.

Place the dough in the warm, clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until it has doubled in bulk, about 2 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (Or refrigerate it right after kneading for up to 24 hours, then remove from the refrigerator to finish fermenting. Add 30-60 additional minutes to the fermenting time).

While the dough is fermenting, line a round pizza pan or a large baking sheet with foil and oil it generously or line it with parchment paper only. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl, then divide the mixture into two equal portions.

The dough is ready to shape when it has doubled in bulk. Do not punch it down. Cut the dough into two pieces. One half at a time, roll each piece into a 30-inch x 4-in rectangle. Spoon a heaping line of the filling mixture down the center of the rectangle. Pull the long edges up over the filling and pinch together.

Arrange the two strands side by side with the seams down. Beginning in the middle, cross one strand over the other being careful to keep the seams facing down and continue until you reach the end of the strands. Repeat with the other side. Bring the ends around to form a ring and pinch together.

Carefully pick up the ring, place it seam side down on the prepared pan and cover it well with plastic wrap. Let the ring rise until very soft and tripled in size, about 1 hour. (Or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Proof for up to 2 hours after removing it from the refrigerator).

Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange an oven rack in the lower postion and preheat the oven to 350° F. Preheat a second baking sheet to place underneath the pan that the ring is resting on. Doubling prevents the bottom from browning too fast while the ring is baking.

Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing.

When the ring has tripled and the dough does not push back, but remains indented when pressed with your finger, brush it with the egg glaze and sprinkle with poppy  seeds, if desired. Bake for 45-55 minutes until very well browned. After 30 minutes of baking, turn the pan around so that the ring browns evenly. When the ring is done, remove the pans from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Makes one 12-inch “crown.”

A Blessing Of Bread

Condensed and slightly modified from “Czernowitzer Challah” and “Onion and Poppy Seed Purim Ring” in Maggie Glezer’s A Blessing of Bread (Artisan).

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