Archive for December, 2008

Let’s get some fuckin’ FRANCH TOAST!

December 19, 2008

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What do you eat the morning after making challah?  That’s right.  I must admit that part of the whole challah experiment was driven by my desire for some really good for once French toast.  In my mind I can see the soggy pieces of D’Italiano of yesteryear, streaked with white bits of cooked albumen and a gash ripped in them from too rough handling with tongs.  This is not that French toast.  Not really knowing what I was doing except that I was following the recipe from the January ’09 Cook’s Illustrated, I tried it with two thick pieces and two thin from the challah I baked yesterday and let out to dry overnight.  On a tangent, what is with recipes and Food Channel hosts (you know who you are) calling for “day-old” bread?  It’s stale bread and it has a lot of applications.  No need to truss it up with euphemisms.  All right.

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French Toast

Ingredients:

4 slices stale challah (I tried it with 1/2″ and 1″ thicknesses, I’d say a medium of 3/4″ would be the best)

3/4 cup warm milk (a little above room temperature)

2 egg yolks

pinch cinnamon

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

a couple grinds of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250.  Whisk milk, yolks, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and nutmeg in a brownie pan or shallow casserole dish.

Soak the bread in the milk mixture about 20 seconds on each side until it’s saturated, but not falling apart.  This is where having thicker, staler slices are optimal.  They can take in more milk and eggs and stuff without losing their structure.  I put the soaked pieces on a cooling rack on a baking sheet so as not to make a mess.

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Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  When it’s done bubbling and foaming, use a spatula to transfer two slices of bread to the skillet and cook 3 -4 minutes per side until golden brown.  Transfer them to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.  Melt another 1/2 tablespoon of butter and do the next two pieces the same way.  Serve with maple syrup.

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Makes 4 pieces of French toast, though this recipe can obviously be multiplied.

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Challelujah Challahback

December 19, 2008

Challah

I picked Challah for my first entry because this is what I’m planning on giving as Christmas presents this year, so I wanted to try it out.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by a nice eggy, crusty loaf that was entirely worth the 4+ hours it took to prep, rise, bake.  Baking your own bread is retardedly easy and remarkably satisfying – I recommend it to everyone that has access to flour, yeast, water, and a stove.  There is nothing like whipping up a batch of dough and throwing it around for a while, not to mention the smells baking bread fills your house with and the awesome final product.  An added bonus is that no matter how easy a bread recipe is, a homemade loaf never ceases to impress friends and family alike.  Thanks to Cooking Books for the recipe!

Challah

Challah

Dry Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Yeast:

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

pinch suger

Wet Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

Topping:

2 egg whites

black and white sesame seeds

Get the yeast going in a bowl with the warm water and a good pinch of sugar and let it multiply and eat for about ten minutes.   Stir the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Once the yeast is good and frothy, add it to the wet ingredients, then add all of that to the dry ingredients.

Mix on low with the white paddle thing until it’s all incorporated and basically looks like dough.

Scrape your dough out onto a floured work surface and start to knead it.  Keep the bag of flour nearby and if the dough is too sticky (you’ll know if it’s too sticky) work some in a pinch or so at a time.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and springy and then form it into a ball by turning it inside out and then pinch the bottom closed.

Wipe some oil around the inside of a big mixing bowl and drop the dough ball inside, then cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour.

Punch the dough down and knead it for 2 minutes, make another ball, and let it rise again, this time uncovered, until it is one and a half times its size now.  For me, this took about an hour and a half because it’s cold in Buffalo in December.

Cut the ball into 3 equal pieces and cover them with a towel and let them sit for another 10 minutes (I know).

Roll the pieces into three ropes and braid them like a Challah is braided (in case you don’t know how to do this, you sort of take the left rope and cross it over to the right so it is now in the middle.  Then take the right rope and cross it over to the left so it is now the middle.   Repeat with the left and then keep doing this until it is done).  Brush the loaf with the egg whites (you SAVED the egg whites, RIGHT?) and then cover it for another hour.

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Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush with the egg wash again and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Bake it for 30 minutes, rotate the bread 180 degrees, and bake it for another 20 minutes.  I put on some more egg white in the middle where it wasn’t as brown when I rotated that, but really it’s on you.  Take it out, and put it on a rack to cool.

Makes a loaf of bread like this one:

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