French Toast Casserole

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More of a star attraction at a brunch, than a dessert, this is a great way to use a leftover challah. Adapted from Bonnie Stern, French Toast Casserole is easy to make ahead and pop in the oven.  No need for any electric devices to prepare this showstopper. With the maple syrup already in the topping, there’s no need to add anything to this final product.

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Ingredients:

1 large challah, cut into cubed size pieces (no need to remove crusts)
2 ½ cups milk (skim, 1%, 2%, lactose free, almond, coconut, soy)
7 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ stick melted butter or nondairy margarine=
¾ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

Directions:

Beat eggs together in a large bowl.  Add milk and vanilla and blend until well combined.

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Add challah to bowl and immerse well (best to use clean hands).  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Preheat oven to 350F and transfer challah mixture to 9-x13-inch pyrex pan.

Mix butter/margarine, brown sugar and maple syrup in a small bowl and drizzle over entire pan.

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Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

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Science Fact of the Week:

This recipe requires a little advanced planning. It is essential to leave the bread in the liquid mixture overnight to allow the bread to absorb all the liquid. Once baked, the liquid evaporates, leaving you with a crunchy outside and soft inside.

Soft Pretzels

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I was once stuck in the LaGuardia airport for 8 hours, and since the Air Canada terminal barely had anything aside from an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels I was limited in my dinner options. I would probably say this was the beginning of my soft pretzel addiction. I later made them for the first time on National Pretzel Day (April 26 for reference) and have since used this recipe to make pretzels for any random occasion.

When making my last batch I actually made an error. I placed the dough in the mixmaster bowl and covered it with a damp cloth to rise, and put it in the oven (off) so it was in a warm dark place. I later turned the oven on to preheat (for something else) and forgot the dough was in there. 30 minutes later I realized the rising dough in the bowl was beginning to bake. I have since learned to check if anything is in the oven before preheating it.

Anyways, I’m sure I’m boring you with my stories about pretzels, let’s get to the recipe. Try this with half multigrain flour for a bit of a more nutritious option.

The base recipe comes from Baker By Nature (adapted).

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

1 1/2 cups very warm water
1 Package Rapid Rise Yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 and a 1/2 cups bread flour (optional to make 2 and 1/2 cups of it with multigrain bread flour)
6 tbsp margarine, softened

For the Cooking Liquid:

8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda

Egg Wash

1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt

Toppings

Flaked Sea Salt

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand for 10 minutes (until foamy).

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In a stand mixer with hook/dough attachment add flours, margarine and yeast mixture. Mix until combined and dough is kneaded (10-12 minutes).

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Transfer the dough to and oiled bowl and let rise for one hour (doubled).

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Preheat oven to 450˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large wide pot bring water and baking soda to a boil.

Divide dough into 8 pieces, then divide each in half to create a total of 16 pieces. Roll each ball of dough into a strand (approximately 3/4-1 inch thick).

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Shape the dough into a “U”.

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Fold the right edge towards the left 1/3 of the strand.

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Fold the left edge towards the right 1/3 of the strand.

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Fold the end of each dough under the pretzel.

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Place the shaped pretzels in the boiling water for 20-25 seconds.

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Brush the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkled with flaked sea salt.

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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The dough freezes well once shaped and can be used at a later date. Allow to defrost and continue from boiling baking soda mixture.

Science Fact of the Week:

Although I’ve always used yeast in baking, it wasn’t until grade 12 that I understood how it works. Yeast are small single cell organism that make the dough rise by metabolizing simple sugars. Carbon dioxide and alcohol (not in alcoholic levels) are released into the dough to make it rise. This is used to help bake breads, cinnamon rolls, pretzels and even pizza dough.

Multigrain Challah

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Now it’s my turn to have my hand at the Challah game. This one is adapted from Norene’s Prize Winning Challah. I started making this challah in my second year of university, and it has been a hit! It is super forgiving and doesn’t require any fancy machinery.

As for the flour, this can be done with regular best for bread flour however I prefer multi-grain to give it some extra nutrients. I originally found this multi-grain flour (Best for Bread Multigrain by Robin Hood) at Walmart. However, my local Walmart did not have it in stock. After getting a tooth implant the day prior, I spent 2.5 hours hunting around grocery stores and eventually (after calling) found it at Real Canadian Superstore.

I reset my phone after making this recipe and lost some of the progress pictures. I apologize for the trouble! Now, for the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1 package quick rise yeast (1 Tbsp)
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups of multigrain best for bread flour
2.5 cups of white best for bread flour

For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tsp water
1 tsp honey

For the Topping:

Option A: Sugar Crumb Coating:
4 tbsp. margarine, semi-melted
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar

Option B: Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

Option C: Sesame Seeds

Directions:

Dissolve sugar and honey in warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave for 10 minutes before mixing.IMG_5557.jpg

Add oil, warm water, sugar, salt, eggs, and the multi-grain flour. Beat well. Gradually add the remaining flour. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes (or mix all ingredients in the electric mixer with a dough hook) until smooth and elastic. I find I have to add quite a bit of flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

Grease a large bowl with canola oil and turn over the dough so all sides are lightly greased. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm dark place for 1.5-2 hours (I like to use an oven that has been off for at least a couple hours).

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(Dough may also rise in the fridge; and will last 3 days before shaping and baking).

Punch down and let rise again until doubled (45 minutes)IMG_5531.jpg

The dough can be divided in half to make two challahs (3-piece braid), or one large challah (6-piece braid)

To shape (6 piece bread): Divide dough in half, then divide each half into thirds. IMG_5533.jpg

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Roll out each dough ball into a long strand.

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Join all strands together at the top and weave the far right strand over the next two strands, under the third and over the last two.

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Once shaped it can be placed in the fridge overnight. If you chose to do this, take the dough out of the fridge and let rise for 3 hours before baking. Or if you are baking the same day:

Preheat oven to 400˚F

Transfer to parchment paper and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for 1 hour.

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Prepare topping (for streusel mix all ingredients in a bowl). Brush challah with egg wash and then sprinkle with topping.IMG_5546.jpg

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cover with foil for the last 5-10 minutes if it is browning too quickly. (If two smaller challahs, 25 minutes.) Dough will sound hollow when tapped with your fingers

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This recipe is easily doubled and and is great for a shabbat dinner or regular Wednesday night (as I had made this challah for).

Science Fact of the Week:

Multigrain bread is made from more than one grain. This flour contains whole grains which is important to consider for their added health benefits. Whole grains are a source of dietary fibre. This extra fibre (compared to white bread) can help lower blood sugars and aid digestion. Whole grains also contain many added minerals and nutrients.