Food History

A Challah French Toast That Can't be Improved Upon

March 29, 2016

All cooks carry certain recipes in their hearts; they're the ones we make to celebrate time and time again. Change is inevitable, but these recipes stay the same—and my dad’s challah bread french toast is one of them.

My father taught me how to make his french toast when I was a kid; it was probably the first recipe that I ever learned. Pillowy, soft, and subtly sweet, it came to take on extra meaning for me because we’d always make it together.

My father’s version plays on brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla—and to help prevent the butter from burning while the toast is cooking, he adds a thin layer of canola oil to the skillet first. While everything cooks, he warms a small pot of maple syrup. To this day, I believe there’s no greater act of thoughtfulness than giving someone warm maple syrup with their breakfast.

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The fact that my father’s challah bread french toast tastes exactly the same today as it did years ago is part of why I enjoy it so much—sometimes, the best thing you can do to a recipe is not to change it at all.

What recipes do you carry with you, unchanged? Let us know in the comments!

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Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


pamb April 25, 2016
Looking at the original date of the post, this is a reprint. Why you chose to re-use it about a month later, just in time for Passover, when challah wouldn't be in Jewish homes, is beyond me. No, everything you print doesn't have to confirm to any one religious holiday. Yes, challah might be in Gentile homes as well as Jewish ones. But still, it's surprisingly tone deaf for a food blog based in NYC. Even if no one on your staff is Jewish, surely you heard/saw the word on the street that it's Passover. I think you may even have done this last year, as well.
Josh C. April 25, 2016
Hi pamb,

I was just as surprised as you were to see the challah french toast re-used in an email just as Passover was beginning.

If you're looking for Passover content, please check out this article I wrote, which includes recipes for Passover Brisket, Matzo Ball Soup, and Gefilte Fish.
pamb April 27, 2016
Thanks Josh! I'm not normally one to complain, but this was odd timing ;)
Tommy April 22, 2016
Will the (Not A) recipe app be coming to Android?
Carolyn R. April 22, 2016
Josh Cohen (my favorite Food52 recipe writer!) posted this delectable recipe weeks ago, so perhaps somebody with "non-New York values" must have made the decision to email a bunch of recipes featuring leavened bread today. Oy vey! Good Passover, everyone.
Ginger April 22, 2016
Strange that your title recipe this week of Passover incorporates Challah, the classic Jewish Sabbath bread. What were you thinking???
olivia.k April 3, 2016
I too grew up on challah French toast. In my earlier years my mother made a braided loaf very much like challah and in later years we would buy them at the grocery store. All made French toast miles yummier than regular sliced bread.
Ronnie H. April 2, 2016
Yummy! Good for the tummy!