Last weekend was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Just after sundown on the Friday, with my challah bread baking in the oven for the first stage of my memory, I received the news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. I was gutted.
In some respects, I feel like the tiny, 5’1″ Ginsburg was holding this country together. I haven’t only been mourning her death this week, but I feel as though I’m also slowly saying goodbye to the democracy of the United States.
I’ve been carrying around so much existential dread since the results of the last presidential election were confirmed, I could write a novel. A long one, with table of contents and a bibliography. But, you’re not here for that. You’re here for fresh baked bread and a french toast breakfast.
I’ve always said I was raised culturally Jewish, not religiously. I know the holidays based on the foods that my Baba prepared. Passover has always been my favorite with matzoh ball soup, but any other holiday allows for a deliciously leavened loaf of challah.
As a vegan, it took me a while to find a recipe that could hold a flame to the traditionally egg-dependent bread. And once I found something that was good, it took a few loaves to perfect it for my taste. If my Baba were still here, I’m convinced she’d be blown away by my challah. You will be, too. I promise.
You may have noticed that I emphasized in my memory that my loaf would have to include raisins. Yes, I’m one of those people that absolutely loves raisins! Unfortunately, since I’m aware that not everyone shares my propensity for the taste of the lovely, shriveled up, sun-dried grapes, I often omitted them from the dough.
But this loaf wasn’t going to be for anyone but me. I didn’t have to be concerned about appeasing anyone’s tastebuds but mine. Seems odd, but it’s amazing how incredible it felt to make raisins a non-optional ingredient.
Turning the challah into french toast the next day is just common sense. No other bread makes the breakfast specialty better. If you disagree, I’ll commit to trying your vegan french toast and you’ll try mine. We’ll see who wins.
When I was talking to my colleague, Lori, at work about my Memory List, and how I had plans to make this particular memory over the weekend, she excitedly told me about an overnight baked french toast recipe she’s brought to numerous social gatherings (from a pre-COVID world) and it’s always been a crowd favorite. I happily accepted her offer to email it to me, and although I usually pan-fry my french toast, I decided my memory this time around would include her recipe instead.
I first had to veganize it, which was super easy. I basically just had to figure out a good ingredient ratio for the batter/custard. On a side note, what the heck do you call the stuff liquidy stuff you dip the bread into? It’s not like pancake batter, but it’s also not custard. “Mixture” just sounds weird on its own. Anyhoo, I digress.
The french toast turned out delicious! It was difficult to stop myself from eating more slices, but I’ve been seeing progress with my weight loss and fitness goals, so I was able to keep my eyes on the prize.
If you make your own challah and/or french toast using the recipes below, I’d love to hear about it. And, of course, whether or not you used raisins.
Challah Bread Recipe
- 2 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 2 tsp + 1/4 cup Sugar
- 1 cup + 1/2 cup Water, lukewarm
- 1/2 cup Chickpea Flour
- 1/4 cup + 1 tsp Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3-4 cups All-Purpose Flour (maybe more!)
- 1/4 cup Raisins (optional)
- 2 tbsp Just Egg, divided
- 1 tbsp Sesame Seeds or Poppy Seeds (optional)
- In a large bowl, whisk together yeast, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup water. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate and sugar to dissolve.
- In a blender, blend together 1/2 cup water and chickpea flour until thick and foamy.
- While whisking gently the yeast mixture, slowly add the olive oil, then the chickpea mixture, then the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Gradually add the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough forms into a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, add raisins using, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and soft, but not sticky.
- Using the same mixing bowl, make sure it’s free of any dough stuck to the sides, and grease it with 1 tsp of olive oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place for one hour, until doubled in size.
- After the first rise cycle, punch the dough down to deflate it and remove any air bubbles. Re-cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.
- Punch the dough to deflate it, and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead it to remove air bubbles, and cut the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into 1″ strands (about 18″ long), and braid the challah.
- Place the braided loaf onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and brush with 1 tbsp of Just Egg. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush loaf with remaining 1 tbsp of Just Egg once more, sprinkle sesame/poppy seeds on top if using, and bake 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you knock the bottom of it. Let it cool before slicing.
Baked French Toast Recipe
- 3/4 cup Brown Coconut Sugar
- 1/3 cup Earth Balance
- 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Just Egg
- 1 1/4 cups Oat Milk
- 1 loaf Challah Bread, cut into 1″ thick slices
- Ground Cinnamon
- Place brown sugar into a 13×8″ casserole dish.
- Melt Earth Balance and pour into the brown sugar, along with 2 tbsp vanilla, and mix together until a glaze forms at the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Whisk Just Egg, oat milk and remaining vanilla (6 tbsp) in a shallow bowl until
- Dip each bread slice into egg mixture, thoroughly soaking both sides. Lay each slice on top of the sugar mixture in the casserole dish.
- Press the bread slices into the sugar mixture and tightly pack the bread in the casserole dish, ensuring that their crusts are touching.
- Sprinkle the bread lightly with cinnamon, cover the casserole dish, and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375F and bake the french toast for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown in
- When plating, flip each slice of bread over, with the glazed side up. Serve immediately.