Challah French Toast Pancakes
They said that 2014 was going to be the year of the mashup. After the knock out success of the croissant-donut there have been many other food hybrids looking to capture some of that attention. I heard the ramen hamburger was an experience, but it’s not one I felt compelled to try.
I’ve long been a proponent of the deep fried Buffalo burger at Swifty’s. But mostly, I’m a simple man with simple tastes.
Never would I dream of trying to set forth upon a bold culinary adventure and try to come up with something novel for novelty’s sake. But here I was on Sunday morning. Two hungry kids were looking to me for nourishment. And I was trying to figure out how I could get them to eat a stale, misshapen, end-piece of challah that was leftover from Friday’s dinner.
In the past, challah French toast bread pudding (which is effectively a mini single-serve version of challah French toast casserole) failed to excite them. The problem was textural: it was too custardy. When the kids imagine French toast, they are looking for something that’s fried in butter. And who can blame them.
That’s when it occurred to me. How about challah French toast pancakes?
Amazingly, I can’t find a single reference to these anywhere on Google or Bing. I don’t know how that could possibly be true. Maybe it’s my terrible old man Internet skills. But wouldn’t it be a hoot if I accidentally invented the obvious.
Well, they were obvious to me, thanks to one of my earliest cooking projects. Back in the late 1990s I made a chocolate bread pudding from one of Raf’s Wolfgang Puck cookbooks. It called for soaking challah in cream and then beating the softened bread with a mixer until it was more like a batter than anything that once had a solid form.
Any scoopable batter can be fried up in butter.
With this in mind I diced up my hard, dried out end piece of challah and put it into a large glass bowl. Separately, I beat together a couple of eggs, a healthy pour of whole milk, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and a smidge of vanilla extract.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure how much of this egg mixture the bread could hold, so I added it in a bit at a time. In our current apartment there is no hand mixer. And really, you don’t need one. This isn’t an elegant Wolfgang Puck dessert, this is breakfast. But I worked that batter into the stale bread with a fork, making sure all the hard pieces of stale challah and crust yielded and coalesced to the eggs and dairy.
The goal was to supersaturate the challah just a bit, even though that would result in a slightly wetter batter. It would be okay, because a little baking powder and cornstarch could then give the pancakes some lift and add to their structural integrity.
My batter looked good. It smelled good. Now it was time to melt some butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat.
After the foam subsided, I scooped four four-inch rounds into the pan and let the butter do its work. It crisped the edges, and created a golden crust on a smooth surface that remarkably resembled a pancake. These modest sized cakes held together admirably during the flip, and cooked through on the other side.
Naturally, these are served with Grade B maple syrup.
I have to say, and this may sound a bit like blasphemy, but I think I like these better than traditional challah French toast. The real thing from thick slices of the loaf is kind of a pain in the ass. If you are using good challah, you risk the structural integrity of the dish in order to fully load the bread with the egg and dairy mixture. Plus, a giant slice of challah French toast is a lot of food.
This delivers the same flavor and texture experience with a bit more finesse. Not only do you get those great crispy bits around the edges, but these have no crust. Well, technically, they do have crust, it’s just integrated seamlessly into the batter.
Regrettably, the only picture of these is a blurry shot of the pan post-flip. I shared it on Twitter to prove the existence of this dish, but the image isn’t of sufficient quality to post on the FLB. However, this is going to be a staple dish in the Fussy household from this point forward. And I consider it a work in progress.
In time, surely I’ll have a Pinterest-worthy image that will make all those pinners of delightful breakfast treats swoon with envy. But for now, I’m just thrilled to have found a way the kids will eat stale bits of leftover challah that have sadly been going to waste.
Whether that brings fame or fortune, well, we’re just going to have to wait and see. In the meantime, you should get some challah and try out this crazy recipe. Just make sure your bread is good and stale first.
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Update: February 23, 2014
I finally took a decent picture of a stack of these Challah French Toast Pancakes. Note the crispy fried in butter edges. These were even better than the first batch. Hopefully next week’s will be better still.