Saturday, June 02, 2007

Au bon pain perdue

When Tam's mom first moved to Arizona, her apartment was just a few blocks from a Krispy Kreme donut shop. When Tam's brother Charley, whom you may remember from our last breakfast post, came to visit, he would stop on the way to pick up the schedule of when the freshly baked donuts would be ready. As soon as the next glazed batch hit the shelves, Charley bring home a dozen, still warm, dip them in a freshly beaten egg and make French toast with them. He confided his secret: a whole stick of butter.

In Jerusalem, we've been enjoying a (slightly healthier) version of French toast, in which the donuts are replaced with challah bread. Challah is a staple of traditional Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish cuisine; it's a sweetened, egg-rich, braided bread, eaten especially on the Shabbat. It's sprinkled with either poppy or sesame seeds, which represent the manna given to the Jews by God during their wanderings in the desert after the Exodus. Unlike most other European sweetened breads, it does not contain dairy, because it usually accompanies meat-based Shabbat meals. Originally, challah referred to a small portion of dough separated out from the main piece and given to the Jewish priesthood; now, according to strict interpretations, there are no ritually pure priests (since the destruction of the Temple), so the challah portion of ritual bread is usually burned. But challah is still an extremely prominent part of the Shabbat meals, and people buy giant piles of loaves in the Mahaneh Yehuda market every Friday in preparation.

It also makes for excellent French toast, due to its slight sweetness, its absorptive qualities, its fluffy interior and crunchy crust, and the nutty savoriness of the seeds. We make challah French toast with a simple egg dip, and top it with lemony strawberries and honey-sweetened yogurt for a delicious Shabbat breakfast.

Challah French Toast with Strawberries and Honeyed Yogurt

3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter (or more, you know...)
6 thick slices challah bread (best if slightly stale)

1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste; depends on how sweet your strawberries are)
juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Mix strawberries with sugar and lemon juice in large bowl and toss to combine. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes.

Mix honey and yogurt in small bowl.

Mix egg, milk, sugar and salt in a large bowl and add slices of bread. Let soak for a few minutes. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and add bread. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
Serve immediately, topped with strawberries and yogurt mixture.

Serves 2.

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