1. Bring milk, 6 tablespoons of butter, and sugar to a boil together in a medium size saucepan. Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and let cool to lukewarm (105° to 115°).
  2. Stir yeast into milk and let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Beat 3 of the eggs in a small bowl w/ the salt, stir them into the mixture.
  4. Stir in 5 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, until you achieve a sticky dough. Flour a work surface lightly and turn the dough out onto it. Wash and dry the bowl.
  5. Sprinkle additional flour over dough and begin kneading, adding more flour as necessary until you have a smooth elastic dough.
  6. Smear the reserved 2 tablespoons butter around the inside of the bowl and put the ball of dough into the bowl, turning to coat it lightly with butter. Cover bowl with a towel and set to rise to rise until tripled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  7. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and cut into halves. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces out into long “snakes” about 18 inches long. Braid three of the snakes into a loaf and tuck the ends under. Repeat with the remaining snakes.
  8. Sprinkle a large baking sheet with the cornmeal, and transfer the loaves to the sheet. Leave room between the loaves for them to rise. Cover the loaves with a towel and leave to rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour. 40 Minutes in rise, Preheat the oven to 350°
  9. Beat the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together well in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash evenly over the loaves. Sprinkle immediately with poppy seeds to taste.
  10. Set the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Cool completely on racks before wrapping.
2 large loaves