In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 2 packets of yeast and 1 Tb sugar into 1/2 cup warm water, Wait about 10 minutes and the yeast should look foamy. If it doesn't, your yeast may have expired.
Once yeast is activated, add other 1/2 cup warm water and remaining sugar, eggs and yolks, honey, oil and spices. Whisk everythi8ng together until well incorporated. Add pumpkin puree and mix to incorporate.
Add flour to the pumpkin mixture by the 1/2 cupfuls at a time. Gently mix in with a large spoon (Yes, this was all done by hand!) When mixture begins to get too thick to stir, take out of bowl and knead. This happened about half-way through. Continue to add flour until dough is not sticky. I used 7 cups of flour.
Wash out the bowl well and coat it with canola oil. Add dough back in and turn over so dough is covered with oil. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. You will use this to help rise the dough.
Cover the dough with a damp towel and place it over the bowl and dough. Place bowl in the middle rack of your oven and the boiling pot of water (lid off) underneath. This crates a warm and moist environment and helps the dough rise Close oven but don't turn on and allow to rise for 1 hr.
After the hour, take bowl out and punch the dough down a few times. This was the fun part! Then place it back in the oven for 1 more hour for a second rise.
After the second rise, take the bowl out of the oven. Flour a clean surface and knead the dough a few times. Then cut the dough in half. Each half will make 1 large challah.
For a 3 strand challah, cut your half into thirds. For a 4 strand challah, cut the dough into quaters. (At this point I froze the other half, but I don't know the outcome of defrosting yet).
To brad challah, take one of the dough parts being used for a strand and roll it out sightlty with a rolling pin.
Then using your hands roll the further end of the dough towards you, creating a strand. Continue to roll on a floured surface until desired length. Use your hands to create length at the ends.
Once all the strands are created, secure them lightly at one end.
For a 4-strand braid, remember "Over-Under"Over". Take the strand furthest to the right and go over, then under then over the strands. Repeat with the new strand that's furthest to the right. After braiding, tuck the ends under. Place the challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
re-heat oven to 350 degrees and brush the challah with egg wash. Tent the challah losely with foil and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
Bake challah for a total of 40 minutes. But first set timer for 20 minutes then turn challah around in oven and bake for the other 20 minutes for even baking. Watch the challah for coloring and desired browning.
*Note: After the 1st 20 minutes, I brushed the challah with additional egg wash in the areas that needed browning.
When challah is done is should be golden brown and not doughy in the center.