My dad’s mother, Agnes, was Finnish, and she was an excellent cook. She was a sweet, reserved woman, and she expressed her love for her seven children and their families by making meals for them. She passed away in April, and it’s a lasting regret of mine that I never had the opportunity to sit with her and copy her recipes.
I feel like a part of my culinary heritage has been lost. A piece of the past went to the grave with my Grandma five months ago….
I mean, she made her own pickles. How do I not have those recipes?!? (See more on my pickle obsession here. God help me if I ever get pregnant; I’ll probably hijack a Vlasic truck.)
I can remember visiting her as a kid and thinking she was some sort of magician because she knew how to make pickles. I was a city kid, so it was somewhat of a revelation that pickles came from cucumbers and not the Vlasic Stork.
I need to see if any of my aunts have her pickle recipes….
She also made thin Finnish pancakes that sort of resembled crepes and the most amazing Finnish Nisu bread. Nisu is similar to challah, which I also adore. They’re both sweet, egg-based breads and, honestly, I forget I’m trying not to be fat in the presence of both of those breads.
A good friend of mine brought me a loaf of challah left over from Rosh Hashanah, and after I decimated most of the loaf in one sitting, I decided to use the remainder to make French toast. I was in the mood for something with a little more pizzazz than the typical variety, so I decided to stuff it with cream cheese and candied pecans.
Why not, right?
In case you’re wondering… the why not came a few days later when I put on my don’t-you-dare-get-fat-jeans and discovered that I am indeed fat. I mean, I know I’m not really fat, ‘cuz the only other people more critical of their bodies are 16 year old girls currently residing in eating disorder clinics.
The rational half of my brain is telling the vain half of my brain not to freak out (too much). It has been murderously hot the last two months so my hikes have been shorter than usual. Plus I have been recipe testing all kinds of cupcakes, which you will see in the coming days.
OK, enough lamenting. Let’s just be happy and talk about egg saturated bread slathered in syrup.
This is how I made the French toast. I served it with real Canadian maple syrup and spicy sausage because I can’t have all sweet without some savory.
I think this would also be awesome with Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy pecans, by the way.
Challah French Toast with Candied Pecans
The portions are approximate.
2 thick slices of Challah
¼ C whole milk
½ tsp vanilla
4 T cream cheese, room temperature
8 candied pecans, finely chopped
whole candied pecans for garnish
½ T vegetable or grapeseed oil
Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or pie plate. Tear a small hole in the center of the slices of challah (but do not tear all of the way through the bread) and place the bread in the egg mixture. Allow the bread to become saturated with the egg mixture. Flip the bread over allowing the other side to absorb the mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix the finely chopped pecans and the cream cheese together.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. (Adding oil to the butter will prevent it from burning too easily.)
Place the bread into the pan with the hole in the bread facing the bottom of the pan. After the pan side of the bread has become golden, flip the bread over so that the fully intact side is on the bottom of the pan. Spoon the pecan cream cheese mixture into the hole. Allow the second side to get golden brown.
Remove the bread from the pan. Serve with real Canadian maple syrup and garnish with additional pecans, if you wish.