1. Starting with your liquids and ending with the salt, place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Knead for 5 minutes on medium high speed.
2. Cover and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours (longer in winter).
3. Very lightly coat your counter and hands with flour. Divide the dough in half and set one half aside, covered, while you braid the other.
4. Using one half of the dough at a time, divide into however many strands you like. You can do a traditional braid with 3 strands or go up to 8! Once the dough is braided, place it on a parchment lined baking sheet, or curve around inside a large ramekin – do what you like!
5. Repeat with the second loaf. Let these proof for about 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush each loaf with egg whites and, if desired, sprinkle with seeds and/or herbs. Bake immediately for about 30 minutes.