Shabbat Shalom! The holidays are over, but the holiday food may not be gone yet. There’s no reason to throw out the remains of those delicious round holiday challahs though. Leftover challah makes the best bread pudding and cheese strata.
When I was a social worker at Baycrest years ago, the cafeteria served cheese strata every Tuesday. The dish was so heavy it was like eating lead, so for years I never ate cheese strata when it was served at potlucks.
Fast forward to 2009, I was testing recipes for the cookbook put out by the Downtown Jewish Community School’s 30th anniversary. I tried a recipe for strata and it was delicious; even my sons ate it. I realized that strata made at an institution is not the same as a homemade version. The Raspberry and Goat Cheese Strata from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles makes a lovely dish for a weekend brunch or a potluck gathering. It’s sweet and tart and very delicious.
Celebrity chef, restaurateur and author, Anthony Rose, uses leftover challah to make a rich chocolatey bread pudding. His Nutella Babka Bread Pudding can be found in his book, The Last Schmaltz.
I am a big fan of food television. One of my favourite shows is Spencer’s Big 30 on Gusto TV featuring chef Spencer Watts, who does complete meals in 30 minutes. On one of his shows, he made polenta fries and I thought that it looked interesting. I’d never seen polenta, a cornmeal dish, turned to fries.
Watts is from the West Coast, and when I was out there a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that many of the restaurants in Victoria were actually serving polenta fries. I didn’t get a chance to try them, so I thought I’d make them at home. I followed Watts’ recipe, but my batch did not work out.
Since I had all this polenta, I decided to make a Polenta Kugel, substituting polenta for potatoes, and it turned out quite well. I then used the leftovers to make Polenta Kugel Patties.
Earlier this week, I was at a potluck event and I brought dessert. I made Olive Oil Salted Brownies from Daniella Silver’s new cookbook, Variations.
It was a very dense dessert and most of the cake was eaten. Making this cake was easy to do and I didn’t even have to use a stand mixer. In other words, there were less dishes to wash.
RASPBERRY AND GOAT CHEESE BREAKFAST STRATA (Faith Durand)
450 g (1 lb.) loaf day-old challah, halved lengthwise and cut into 2 cm (1/2-in.)-thick slices
6 large eggs, divided
310 ml (1¼) cups milk
250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
60 ml (4 tbsp) sugar, divided
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
2 ml (½ tsp) ground nutmeg
1 ml (¼ tsp) kosher salt
230 g (8 oz) goat cheese, softened (227g, about 2 standard small “logs”)
115 g (4 oz) cream cheese, softened (1/2 a standard “block” of cream cheese)
30 ml (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
250 ml (1 cup) raspberry jam or preserves
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 165°C (325°F). Lightly grease a 23 x 33 (9×13-in.) baking dish. Arrange half the challah in dish, overlapping and wedging pieces to cover the bottom.
In a large bowl, whisk together 5 eggs, then add milk, cream, 30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar, vanilla extract, nutmeg, salt. Whisk again. Pour half the egg mixture over the bread in dish, letting it soak in thoroughly. Set the remaining mixture aside.
In a mixer, beat the goat cheese, cream cheese, butter, remaining egg, and remaining 30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Drop half of the goat cheese filling mixture over the bread in large spoonfuls, gently spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Repeat the process with half the jar of jam. Arrange the remaining bread in a layer, then repeat the process with the rest of the egg mixture and goat cheese filling, followed by the layer of jam. Swirl a butter knife through the top cheese and jam layers to create a decorative design.
The strata can be baked immediately or covered and refrigerated overnight. Bake for about 50 minutes or until strata is puffed, firmly set and golden brown. Set aside to cool 10 minutes. Dust with icing sugar, cut in squares, and serve.
Makes 8 servings.
NUTELLA BABKA BREAD PUDDING (Anthony Rose)
½ loaf challah, homemade or store-bought
Unsalted butter, for greasing
250 ml (1 cup ) labneh or pressed plain Greek yogurt, for serving
60 ml (¼ cup) toasted, crushed hazelnuts, for serving
1 small piece halvah, grated, for serving
125 ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup, for serving
500 ml (2 cups) heavy cream (35%)
6 large eggs
8 ml (½ Tbsp) vanilla paste or extract
2.5 ml (½ tsp) kosher salt
40 ml (2½ Tbsp) brown sugar, well packed
75 ml (5 tbsp) white sugar
125 ml (½ cup) Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
The night before you’d like to serve this, preheat the oven to 350°F and cut the challah into small cubes. Toast the challah on a baking sheet in the preheated oven until mostly dried throughout, about 20 minutes. If the bread is soft, it won’t absorb nearly as much of the custard.
For the custard: in a large bowl, combine the heavy cream, eggs, vanilla, salt, brown and white sugars, and Nutella. Using a hand mixer, blend the custard ingredients. Add the challah croutons to the bowl to soak in the custard overnight in the fridge.
The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), grease a loaf pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper, and boil a kettle of water.
Transfer your bread pudding to the loaf pan, cover it with more parchment paper, and wrap with aluminum foil. Put the loaf pan in a larger casserole dish, then slowly pour the boiled water into the casserole dish until it comes about 3 cm (1 inch) up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1½ hours, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
Once the loaf is just cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan and cut it into thick slices.
If you’re serving this later, you can reheat it in the oven until it’s just toasted and hot throughout.
To serve, top with labneh, toasted hazelnuts, grated halvah, and maple syrup.
750 ml ( 3 cups) of water
250 ml (1 cup) cornmeal
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
60 ml (4 tbsp )olive oil, divided
500 ml (2 cups) butternut squash, shredded
2 medium onions, diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
5 ml (1 tsp) Garam Masala
5 ml (1 tsp) sumac
5 ml (1 tsp) oregano
60 ml (¼ cup) chopped parley
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 1 tsp of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring often to get out the lumps. When the cornmeal is soft and the water is incorporated about 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, and stir until the oil incorporated. Set the polenta aside to cool.
In large saucepan heat the squash, until it softens. Set it aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix the shredded squash with the cooled polenta incorporating all the liquid until well combined. This step can be done ahead of time. Makes approximately 4 cups.
In a heavy frying pan, add the remaining olive oil. Saute the diced onions over medium heat, about 10 minutes. When the onions are browned, add the red pepper and cook to soft the pepper about 2 minutes. Season and set aside on a plate to cool.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a 23-cm (9-inch) square pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sumac, garam masala and oregano and beat well. Add the onions, peppers and parsley. Then mix in the polenta-squash mixture, incorporating 1 cup at a time, before adding the subsequent cups.
Season the polenta-squash mixture. Transfer to the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
Makes 9 to 12 servings.
LEFTOVER POLENTA KUGEL PATTIES
Leftover polenta kugel
2- 3 tbsp olive oil
The polenta will be cold as leftovers should be refrigerated.
Use a round steel molding ring or cookie cutter to cut circular patties from the leftover kugel. A 2-inch ring mold is ideal, but the patties can also be cut square.
In a heavy saucepan on medium heat, add 15 to 30 ml (1-2 tbsp) of oil. Add the patties and saute until the bottom is golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the patties and cook another 5 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Serve warm as a main course or a side dish.
OLIVE OIL SALTED BROWNIES (Daniella Silver)
60 ml (¼ cup) light extra virgin olive oil
250 g (9 oz ) chocolate chips
180 (3/4 cup) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
60 ml (¼ cup) flour or gluten-free flour
5 ml (1 tsp) instant coffee granules
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
Course salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F ). Line a 21 cm (8×8 inch) baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a heatproof bowl, combine chocolate with oil. Melt in a microwave or double boiler and set aside.
Let the chocolate cool slightly.
Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Mix in flour, coffee and baking powder.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes until the brownie is set, but still gooey in the centre.
Sprinkle with a dash more sea salt and cut into squares.
Makes 8 to 12 servings