I thought it only fitting to end our exploration of a modern Passover feast with what everyone’s thinking about by the end of Passover… What’s the first piece of chometz (leavened bread) you’ll be eating?
Challah, the plaited brioche that graces Jewish tables every Friday night dinner, makes for the most opulent French Toast base, because of its eggy, buttery fluffiness. You can find these in many great bakeries around town (my pick for Melbourne is the version by Baker Bleu in Ripponlea), and if all else fails, head to your local bagel belt of a Friday morning and follow the queues for a quintessential loaf.
French toast actually works best with a day-old loaf – hence its French name, Pain Perdu (or “lost bread”), but you can cheat this by drying your slices out in a low oven (150C) for 10 to 15 minutes before soaking.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Challah loaf, sliced into 2cm-thick pieces
1 cup of milk
50g pure cream
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
100g couverture dark chocolate pieces
Butter for frying
Maple Syrup for drizzling
Zest of 1 orange or toasted hazelnuts (optional)
Icing sugar for dusting
Whisk eggs, milk, cream and vanilla together in a bowl big enough for soaking your slices in.
Treat your challah like Chicken Kiev, using a sharp paring knife to slice a pocket into the middle of each piece horizontally, deep enough to bury some chocolate, but not all the way to the bottom of the slice.
Carefully pop bits of chocolate inside each pocket. Lay your choc-laden challah pockets in the eggy mixture for at least 5 minutes. Flip halfway through.
Heat a good knob of butter in a pan on low-medium heat. Pop your challah slices into the pan, leaving them to turn a glorious shade of golden brown before flipping with care.
Your French Toast is ready to remove from the pan when the chocolate has just started to ooze out of the pocket (because it shows that the internals have cooked through as well).
Dust with icing sugar, orange zest or hazelnuts (if using) and drizzle with maple syrup.
The key here is to cut the challah into the equivalent of 1.5 to 2-centimetres-thick slices so that you have enough room to slice in your pocket. You could ask your bakery to do the slicing for you, but it’s not an exact science, so would be worth trying to do yourself. Use a serrated bread knife, imagining you’ve taken two slices out of the packet for a sandwich, then slice that amount!
Chocolate is the hero here, so splash out and find the good stuff – it’ll make a huge difference to the end result. I’ve given the option of some orange zest if you’re a choc-orange fan, but you could also turn this Nutella-esque with some crushed roasted hazelnuts and a good gianduja blend instead. Orrrrr, you could just whack a heaped teaspoon of Nutella in your pocket and call it a day, but that wouldn’t be very The Design Files, now, would it?