When I first visited Lisa in Chicago (with Matt of course), I remember being struck by the fact that she made beautiful challah every single Shabbat. I heard stories of how she would lug the dough to work and let it rise at her office, and Matt told me stories of how he loved punching the dough down as a kid. But we’ll save the challah stories for another day for when we actually write about Lisa’s Incredible Challah (which really is quite incredible).
The point is that I was inspired, as I am by all of Lisa’s cooking, to give it a go when Matt and I first started dating. Years later, it’s become a Friday tradition, which means that we always have an entire loaf of bread for only two for the next week. I used to worry that we would have challah leftover by the time the next Shabbat rolled around, but after discovering this recipe, the world in which there is “leftover challah” just sounds surreal.
I found this in a Williams-Sonoma cookbook that Matt gave to me as a Valentine’s Day gift one year (a great gift in that I love to cook and he loves to eat and suggest things to cook). It’s the recipe from Sarabeth’s — that storied New York City brunch place — a place I used to love treating as an “occasion” spot for brunch when I first moved here. And now we get to enjoy similar brunch at home, and plus making it at home means Matt gets a double portion!
This was a great chance to pull out the griddle and use it to make many toasts at once. (I can’t believe I used to make pancakes and blintzes and French toast without one before since it has so vastly simplified the cooking process for all of them!)
The one thing about the recipe is that there are a couple of steps so the dishes can pile up, but I’ve just used out regular dining plates for some of the prep work and then thrown it all into the dishwasher to make for easy clean-up.
Make sure to let the pieces of toast soak in the deliciousness that is the batter for at least one to two minutes for each side so that the toast will be moistened through with all that flavor…
…and when pressing the toasts into the almonds, make sure to press with enough force that the almonds stay on! They add a wonderful crunch to the toast and I think really makes this French toast spectacular.
The original recipe calls for raspberries on the side, but we happen to be on a blueberry streak, so I used blueberries instead.
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup of half-and-half (or soy milk or almond milk, I generally use whatever milk is lying around the house already)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 3/4 tsp almond extract (optional – but delicious if you add it)
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 8 thick slices of challah (preferably a day old)
- Butter for cooking
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup raspberries (or blueberries, or sliced strawberries, whatever berries strike your fancy)
- Pure maple syrup for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 1 rimmed baking sheet.
- In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half (or milk), sugar, orange zest, almonds extract, if using, and vanilla.
- Pour the mixture in a plate (easiest if you use a pasta bowl or any dish with a wider bottom and lip on the side) and add the bread, one slice at a time to the egg mixture, and turn gently to coat evenly.
- Let stand until the bread has soaked up some of the egg mixture, about 1-2 minutes.
- Place a griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly oil the griddle and the baking sheet (or just put foil down, which is what I do to save some cleaning hassle).
- Spread the almonds on a separate plate. One piece at a time, take the bread from the egg mixture, letting the excess liquid drip back into the plate.
- Dip one side of the bread into the almonds pressing gently to help the nuts stick. Repeat with all the remaining bread slices.
- Place the bread slices on the griddle, almond side down, and cook until the nuts begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes more.
- Transfer to the baking sheet, almond side down, and bake until the center of the bread is heated through but still moist, about 10 minutes.
- Serve the French toast immediately out of the oven, throw some blueberries on top and slather in good quality maple syrup.
Serves 2 very hungry people, or 4 normal servings.
Adapted from Breakfast Comforts by Rick Rodgers.