Challah Bread

In the past 10 or so years since I’ve started baking and cooking I have tried out countless recipes; some have been ok, some very good, and others fantastic. The recipes that I share on here with all of you are the ones that I’ve liked the best over the years, that can be considered tested and approved for our readers – all the recipes I post on here are ones that I love to make and eat.

That being said, I am about to share a recipe for you in this post that is quite possibly my absolute favorite thing that I have ever made in all of my time in the kitchen. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you challah bread, one of the tastiest things you will ever eat. Let me explain – challah bread, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a Jewish bread made with eggs, butter, and sugar, that has a characteristic braided shape. It is buttery, sweet, cake-y and absolutely addictive warm out of the oven with butter or jam. Though I usually aim to try out new recipes when I’m at home in Rhode Island, challah bread is always an exception to the rule, and I make it at least several times for my family. During the car ride home from the airport my dad without fail inquires about the likelihood of eating challah bread: “Sooo, doing some baking when you’re home? When could you make challah? Tomorrow? You’ll be up early from the jetlag anyways, right? Might be a good way to fill the morning!” When I do get around to making this recipe, the bread quite literally disappears within an hour or two; I often find my family members eating slices of it while standing at the kitchen counter, butter knives in hand. If you happen to have any bread leftover (though this has never happened in my house) I imagine you could also use it to make French toast or bread pudding. Yummm.

As enthusiastic as the above paragraph is about this recipe, I realize that some of you may be a bit uncertain about making bread from scratch. I know what you’re thinking: it’s complicated; it takes too long to make; you figure you can just buy bread at the supermarket. Rest assured that this recipe isn’t all that time consuming; you really just need to mix the ingredients together for the dough, knead it a bit, and let it rise for a couple of hours unattended. And trust me, this bread is WAY BETTER THAN ANY BREAD YOU WILL EVER BUY AT THE SUPERMARKET. I can’t say enough good things about it. Make this as soon as you can and enjoy!!!


2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, and butter. Next add 4 1/2 cups of the flour, and the salt and mix all the ingredients together until the dough comes together in a sticky mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, working in the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not be tempted to add too much flour. The dough should stay soft and will become less sticky with kneading.

To make the dough with a stand mixer, in the 5-quart bowl of a mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, 3 eggs, and butter, then 4 ½ cups of flour and salt. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook and knead on low speed, working in the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.

Line a half-sheet pan or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, turn out the ball of dough and knead it for a minute or two. To shape the bread and make a 3-strand braid like I do (you can also make a four or six strand braid, but I tend to take the easiest route here:) cut the dough into 3 equal pieces with a sharp knife. Using your palms, and starting in the center and working outward, roll each piece of dough out in to a rope as long as the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces. Line up the three pieces of dough on the baking sheet. Pinch them together at the top and begin to braid the three pieces together. When you have finished braiding, pinch together the bottom and tuck the strands under at the ends.

Place the braided loaf on the prepared pan, cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise again in a warm, draft-free spot until the loaf doubles in size and is spongy to the touch, 45 to 60 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.

Brush the braid gently with the beaten egg. Bake the bread until is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Serve with butter and jam. Makes 1 large braided loaf.

Individual Baked French Toasts

In the past five years or so--from my year living in Bologna and onwards--I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit and explore the cuisines of different countries. I have gotten a chance to sample mussels and frites in Belgium, tacos al pastor in Mexico, paella in Spain, and kanelbullar in Sweden, not to mention the many superb dishes that Italy has to offer. 

However, as exciting and interesting as it is to try new dishes and cuisines, there are other foods that I have a certain fondness and appreciation for because they represent a certain nostalgia for me; they are dishes that are simple, familiar, and just plain good, the ones my mom made for us growing up and that that instantly transport me back to my childhood – for example, tomato soup on a rainy day, roasted chicken and potatoes for dinner, blondies  for dessert, and of course, French toast for breakfast. 

American breakfast, which I’ve talked about in previous posts, can be divided in to savory and sweet categories. The latter category can be divided in to three groups: waffles, pancakes, or French toast. Seeing as how we have so many readers from different countries on this blog, let me give a little background on the subject of today's post: French toast is bread that is dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and then fried in butter, and that is often served for breakfast or brunch in America. It is also sometimes called pain perdu and is most traditionally made using challah bread, French bread, or white bread. 

My mom’s version of French toast is a bit different in that it uses cinnamon swirl bread with extra cinnamon in the batter, served with a healthy dose of maple syrup and sometimes a side of bacon. It is a dish that she continues to make for us when we are all home during our respective vacations, and I must say that I have never tried French toast quite as good as hers – anything I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant doesn’t quite make the mark. 

My version of French toast is basically my mom’s recipe, but with my own twist – the French toast is baked in the oven and is served in ramekins, kind of like a bread pudding (nothing wrong with having a little dessert for breakfast!) I find that baking the French toast makes things much easier – you can put all of the ramekins in the oven at once instead of frying slices bread one at a time and risking the other pieces getting cold in the meantime. Plus, the presentation of these French toasts is really nice – they puff up like souffl├ęs when they first come out of the oven, and everyone gets their own ramekin. 

This makes a perfect breakfast for the weekend, a great addition to a brunch, and is super easy to throw together. If you cannot find cinnamon swirl bread, feel free to use challah bread, white bread, or French bread in this recipe. I’ve also had French toast made with leftover panettone or colomba, for those of you living in Italy – fantastic. Enjoy everyone!


2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt 
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 slices of sandwich size cinnamon bread (Pepperidge Farm brand works great)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly toast the cinnamon the bread a few slices at a time and let them cool (toasting the bread will ensure that it doesn’t get too soggy when you combine it with the egg and milk mixture – alternatively you could also use bread that is a couple of days old). Remove the bread crusts and cut the bread in to squares.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract. Add the bread pieces to the milk mixture and let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the bread/milk mixture evenly in to four 6-oz. ramekins and place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake the French toasts for about 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve right away with extra maple syrup to pour over the top. Serves 4.

Fettuccine with Brie, Tomatoes and Basil

I’ve noticed that there tend to be two camps of people when it comes to seasons -- there are the “summer people,” or those who wait all year for the arrival of June, July, and August, who eagerly count down the days until they can trade in their jeans for shorts, spend all day at the beach, and commence their daily gelato habit (just me?) Then there are the “Fall people” – the ones who speak excitedly about the leaves changing color (they’re just dead leaves!) the chance to finally wear sweaters and boots (I’d take a sun dress any day) and the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Dunkin Donuts (I’d always much prefer an iced cappuccino, but that’s just me).
As you can see, I am not a Fall person.
I have long associated summer with school vacation, trips to Newport, days spent by the pool, warm weather, and a great season to cook and eat in – summer is after all the time of the year when corn, watermelon, cherries, and tomatoes are at their best and the weather is perfect for grilling outside. It is hands down my favorite season.