In 1-quart saucepan, heat milk to just under boiling point. Add boiling water. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in oil, honey and salt (if used). Set aside 10 minutes to proof (yeast will become foamy).
Add milk mixture to yeast and stir with wire whisk to combine well. Add flour 1 cup at a time, stirring with wooden spoon after each addition. Form dough into ball. Do not knead. The dough will be soft but not silky smooth.
Leave dough in bowl and cover with damp cloth. Set in warm, draft-free place to rise until dough is doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).
Punch down dough. Place on lightly floured board and roll into 10×14-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut lengthwise into six strips. Using three strips of dough at a time, braid dough into two loaves.
Coat double-welled French bread pan with nonstick spray. (Or use large baking sheet.) Place dough in pan and set in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).
In cup, whisk egg white and 1 teaspoon water until foamy. Brush over top of each loaf. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake at 400° 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350° and bake 10 minutes longer, until crust is golden brown. Remove bread from oven and cool on wire rack 20 minutes before slicing. Makes 2 loaves.