Challah Redux

What to do with that bag of challah ends left from Yom Tov? We’ve all had that dilemma from time to time, and having a few tasty recipes on hand will prevent your family from rolling their eyes over the dinner table.

Leftover challah makes the best croutons! They are in a different league entirely than the over-salted tiny cubes you purchase in the grocery. You can add seasonings to match the salad or leave them simple. Combine your homemade croutons with tomatoes, basil, salt, oil and vinegar for a satisfying panzanella salad.

Standard fried French toast is another way to use challah, of course, but we prefer the baked recipes. One can add so many flavors to that dish that no one will ever be bored of French toast again.

To help the challah absorb the egg mixture: spread out bread slices or cubes on a rimmed baking sheet; let stand overnight before freezing in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Pecan French Toast Casserole

For the French toast:

1 pound challah, cubed and dried overnight

Butter, room temperature (for baking dish)

4 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the pecan crumble:

1/2 cup pecans

2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat.  Slice the challah about 3/4-inch thick. Cut off the crusts and then cut the slices in 3/4-inch dice. You should have 6 to 8 cups of croutons.

Place the croutons on the lined sheet pan and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper (and any optional ingredients). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing once, until they’re nicely browned on all sides. Cool to room temperature.

The best part of this dish is the advance prep! Do all the work the night before and pop it in the oven the next morning.

Butter a 13”x9” baking dish.

Toss bread cubes into prepared dish. Whisk eggs, egg yolks, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Pour over challah, pressing down to help it soak up custard. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to one day. Keep chilled.

Homemade Challah Croutons

12–16 ounces challah

2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional add-ins:

Smoked paprika — adds flavor to any soup

Crushed fresh garlic — perfect on vegetable soups or potato-based soups

Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice — add this when your croutons are garnishing butternut or pumpkin soup

Cumin or curry powder — Mediterranean-type soups or bean soups and any soup containing curry

Oregano and basil (dried or fresh) — just right for tomato soups

For pecan crumble and assembly:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pulse pecans, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor until nuts are coarsely chopped.

Scatter pecan crumble over soaked challah. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake until warmed through (a knife inserted into the center should feel warm to the touch), 25–30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until deeply browned, 35–40 minutes longer. Let cool slightly before serving with maple syrup or honey.