My husband loves french toast. He’s been asking for it for a few weeks now. His idea of a proper french toast is regular sandwich bread, dipped in egg and fried in butter. I’m right along with him, until we discuss bread. I much prefer challah, or some eggy, slightly sweet, buttery bread. And it’s difficult to find a good challah in these part of the woods. So I decided to make my own. I may have overcooked the french toast a wee, but that’s the way Richard likes it, too. Some things are worth compromise.
This recipe for challah makes one loaf. It has three total rises, so it takes a time investment, but I was very happy with the result. The bread isn’t very heavy, and has a nice tight crumb. I let the challah sit on the counter for one day before I transformed it into a breakfast masterpiece. If you can buy a nice loaf, you can save yourself some time, but I found it very rewarding to make the challah myself. (Yes, I took a bite out of the heel, before I remembered to take a picture – sorry about that.)
Below the challah recipe is the directions for turning it into french toast. Seriously, if you don’t have time to make the bread, buy some and make breakfast! Not everyone is as off her rocker as me . . .
- ¾ cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast (I used regular yeast, but I'm sure the rapid rise stuff would work well, too)
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 3¾ - 4 cups all purpose flour
- 4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature and divided into 4 separate pads
- egg wash, one egg beaten with one teaspoon water
- Put the lukewarm water in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Add ½ cup flour and the dry yeast. Stir together to make a sponge. Allow the yeast to work - once you see the sponge getting bubbly, you're ready for the next step.
- Beat together the honey and eggs. Add to the sponge in the mixing bowl, and stir together. Add the salt.
- With a wooden spoon, mix in another cup of flour. (1½ cup flour total)
- With the dough hook attached to the mixer, and on slow speed, add the remaining flour ½ cup at a time until it is all incorporated, and you have added a total of 3¾ cups of flour. (Remember, you've already have 1½ cups of flour in the bowl, so in this step, you'll add another 2¼ cups of flour.)
- Increase the mixer speed to medium. In 5-6 minutes, the dough should be coming away from the sides of the bowl. If not, add a little more flour, one Tablespoon at a time.
- Still on medium speed, begin to throw in the butter, one piece at a time. It may look like your dough is coming apart, but don't worry. Keep the mixer on medium until all the butter is thoroughly incorporated into the dough.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, and form it into a ball. Place the dough in a greased bowl to rise. Be sure the dough is coated in butter or oil or with cooking spray. Cover the opening of the bowl with plastic wrap. Cover the plastic wrap with a kitchen towel. Set at room temperature to rise until double in bulk - about 1 to 1½ hours. (I put my yeast dough in a cold oven with the oven light on to make sure it's in a warm, draft-free spot.)
- Once doubles, remove the coverings, and punch the dough down. Cover again, and let rise again until doubled - 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Gently punch the dough down, and separate into 3 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 12-14 inch logs. Braid the dough logs, tucking the ends underneath themselves, to make a pretty braided loaf. Place the loaf on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise again - 45 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- As the oven is heating, remove the kitchen towel, and brush the loaf lightly with the egg wash.
- Bake the challah for 35-40 minutes until the top is nicely browned and shiny. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes before serving, or cover in plastic wrap to save for french toast the next day.
Okie dokie – let’s make some breakfast!
- 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
- 3 large eggs
- 2 Tablespoons honey, warmed slightly in the microwave to make it easier to mix in with the eggs
- 1 Tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3-4 Tablespoons butter
- 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- Cut 6-8½ inch thick slices of challah or your favorite loaf bread.
- In a pie plate or wide-mouthed mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk or half-and-half. Beat together again.
- Add the orange liqueur (if using), cinnamon, honey, and orange zest. Whisk all together to make the finished custard.
- Two pieces at a time, soak the bread into the custard. Flip the bread slices over, so both sides are covered - about 30 seconds each side. Put the bread slices on a cooling rack which is placed over a baking sheet - to catch the drips.
- In a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter with 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil. When hot and melted, add three slices of bread. Brown 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a cooling rack over a sheet pan and into a warm oven. Repeat until all the slices have been cooked.
- Serve with your favorite french toast toppings: powdered sugar, apples sauteed in butter with sugar and cinnamon, butter and maple syrup, or whipped cream and fresh fruit.