Happy Challahween!

The High Holidays are in full swing and you know what that means…it’s time to CARBO LOAD. Just because the Chicago Marathon is over doesn’t mean you should stop eating all the bread in sight. Not just any ol’ bread. None of that boring brioche or simple sourdough(although we do love sourdough). This time of the year there is only one loaf that we are lovin’ and it goes by one name…CHALLAH. Flour, sugar, salt, water, oil and yeast. Simple yet oh so satisfying. This fluffy favorite has been a staple of Jewish culture for centuries.

Commonly eaten with Shabbat dinners and on Jewish holidays, this special bread brings an extra bit of sweetness to the meal. Simple in form, made with less than ten ingredients, it is still seen as a sacred dish and often blessed before eating. After that…it’s time to eat! Little hands are perfect for ripping into this delicious dough. It’s buttery shine and fluffy texture make it ideal for family dinner nights where all you want to do is roll up your sleeves and dive right in. No utensils necessary. Let your fingers be your forks. Better yet, use the challah itself as your spoon for that matzo ball soup. Don’t feel guilty for eating nearly half the loaf by the time the appetizers arrive. You’ve been doing plenty of heavy lifting at the pumpkin patch and apple orchard. You deserve it. Here are just a few ideas for how to incorporate some heavenly challah into your next meal.

For breakfast: French toast

Woke up craving carbs this morning? We’ve got you covered. This ain’t your mama’s French toast. Or maybe it is…and in that case you’ve got an awesome mom. Turn your fresh, frozen, even super stale loaf of challah bread into a beautiful breakfast or brunch worthy of kings and queens…or at least worthy of a second helping. Your little ones will be dying to join you in the kitchen for this one. They can help with mixing the batter or dunking those fluffy slices right in. Let them watch the bread in the pan and tell you when it is starting to brown & bubble and time to flip. Soon they will graduate up to flipping this French toast all on their own…maybe breakfast in bed for mother’s or father’s day is in the near future…or at least distant future. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, slather on the butter and pass the maple syrupdown this way! Float away on your fluffy French cloud and never come back…until lunchtime…

For lunch: grilled cheese

“More cheese please!” screamed hungry little monsters around the world. By little monsters I mean your little angels of course. But when hunger strikes right around noon, we all know there’s not much worse than a cranky kiddo craving something salty. This challah grilled cheese will answer their requests and put you at ease. Simple yet satisfying, you will want to lick the burnt buttery cheese right off the bottom of the pan. Just make sure you don’t burn your tongue so you can taste the real deal. This sweet sammy will cure any craving. Melty cheese, fluffy challah, caramelized onions and balsamic glaze…pardon my drool. But why stop there? The classic grilled cheese is the perfect foundation to build some deliciousness. That thick challah can hold up to even the heaviest of toppings, from peppers to pickles to potato chips. For the craziest twist yet…turn that lunchtime treat into something sweet with grilled cheese for DESSERT. Chocolate+Cheese=YES PLEASE

For dinner: bread pudding (savory style)

We’ve all heard about the savor-izing trend lately. Eggs in our oatmeal, bacon on our donuts,where does it end!? I have been a bit suspicious of this transition from my sweet to salty (I will ALWAYS opt for chocolate over chips), but this dish made me rethink my initial judgment. Maybe it’s the mushrooms (oddly enough, one of my favorite foods since I was a baby) or maybe it’s the buttery garlicky goodness. Whatever it is in this dish (cough, cough, vermouth) something about savory bread pudding sounds more delicious than suspicious. If mushrooms ain’t your thing, try tossing some other veggies in there. Even better, make them GREEN. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or some simple spinach…let’s face it, just about anything pairs nicely with bread and butter…and cheese…and heavy cream. But hey,WINTER IS COMING, it’s time to build up just a lil’ bit o’ blubber for the cold months ahead.

For dessert: bread pudding (sweet tooth style)

It’s back to basics with this baby. Tried and true, classic bread pudding can be one of the best comfort foods around. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for all you pudding people out there, look no further. This dessert is the perfect excuse to use up that last loaf of challah chillin’ in the freezer. Thaw it out, add a splash of milk and a sprinkle of sugar, and dig in to this wonderful warming dish. If you’re bored of the traditional take, toss in some fresh berries, or at this time of year, frozen berries leftover from those farmer’s market runs. And finally, you really can’t spell dessert without chocolate. Okay…you totally can…but why would you want to? A handful of chocolate chips will take this already sinfully satisfying recipe to the next level. The perfect bite – bread, butter, chocolate, oh my! And it’s not even Christmas cookie season yet…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with one Jewish food as our guide and learned that buttery bread is acceptable at morning, noon, and night. Wherever you come from, whoever you are, the holiday season is right around the corner and I think we can all agree that there’s nothing better than breaking bread with the ones we love.

(Image by flickr member Moe Salama licensed under Creative Commons)

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