Pretty Dishes

Robin’s Challah
April 16, 2011, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Recipes

When Robin was making challah for a family meal recently, she invited me over to observe. After seeing my post about egg bread, which is braided with the typical three strands, she volunteered to teach me the traditional six-strand method.

Robin made the dough earlier in the day from a family recipe, and while there are some slight variations in secondary ingredients from one recipe to the next, the basics are the same: eggs, yeast, flour, water, oil. Smitten Kitchen has posted a great version, and you can find one in just about every good bread book (including two of my favorites: The Bread Bible and Artisan Breads Every Day).

The six-strand braid isn’t too difficult, but it certainly takes some practice, especially if you want the loaf to be perfectly consistent from top to bottom. Mine was anything but, but it was a fun challenge I will put into practice when I want a loaf of bread to shine. There’s no doubt the braiding, along with the glossy egg coating and smattering of poppy seeds, elevates the appearance from ho-hum to gorgeous.

Robin kindly sent me home with a whole loaf, and I immediately decided I needed to use some of it for French toast. Since I had a special loaf of bread, I wanted to do more than just the same-old fried slices with syrup. I found a recipe from Bon Appétit that was just the ticket. It is decadent and memorable—a perfect brunch offering best paired with mimosas.

Caramelized French Toast with Mascarpone

Good fresh berries aren’t readily available yet, so I topped my French toast with mascarpone and maple syrup, and I served it with sliced pear on the side.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Eight 1-inch-thick slices challah or French bread
Powdered sugar
1/2 cup mascarpone
Fresh blueberries and raspberries (optional)
Pure maple syrup

Mix the butter and brown sugar thoroughly in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well blended.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar-butter mixture in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip the bread slices one at a time in the egg mixture to coat. Add 3 or 4 slices to the skillet. Cook until the bottoms are deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture over the top of the bread slices and turn them over. Cook until the bottoms are deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this process with the remaining brown sugar-butter mixture and the remaining bread until all slices are cooked.

Divide the French toast among 4 plates. Sift powdered sugar over the top. Top each slice with 1 tablespoon mascarpone and some berries; drizzle with maple syrup.


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