Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Lotta (Scharffen Berger) Chocolate Part 1: Chocolate Chunk Challah and French Toast

Isn't it funny how we often are when it comes to commitments? If asked, we'd list off a number of relationships, goals, etc. we're committed to. But when we take a hard look at our actions, they rarely line up. Or even if we actually do follow up on our promises, we often do so begrudgingly. I bring this up because I'm taking a seminar that's asked us to examine these things. Though the idea that we don't always follow through on our commitments is hardly surprising to anyone (hello New Years Resolutions?!), this seminar has pushed me to think from some new angles.

Chocolate Chunk Challah
One is via the possibility that our disconnect btween speech and action is due to hidden commitments we have that have stronger sway over our actions than those overt ones. You could be secretly committed to being right/in control, to avoiding past pains, or even just allowing yourself some time to be lazy/selfish. What do you guys think? Do you see merit in this concept and some truth of it in examples in your own life? I think I do.

The other (and maybe more interesting to you ;p) reason I bring up commitments is this. About 3 months ago, I asked my dear readers for a little help with a contest. The prize was a huge Scharffen Berger gift basket and I proclaimed that "I'd love to have all that chocolate to use in treats for my friends, family, and all of you." Well, guess what...I WON and it's time for me to make good on my commitment to make y'all some fantastic chocolatastic treats! Fortunately this is an easy promise to keep since I love chocolate, baking, and sharing both with you guys =D.


Chocolate Chunk Challah French Toast
What I have planned is a "Lotta Chocolate" series that will span about 4 or 5 posts and feature some less common ways of utilizing this versatile ingredient. And yes, that means you won't be seeing any brownies or chocolate chip cookies in it. But I hope you'll trust me not to lead you astray (though how wrong could you go with chocolate anyway, eh?).

Today I present to you a treat taken from the Scharffen Berger chocolate cookbook, itself, a rich slightly sweet challah bread studded with unexpected chunks of semisweet chocolate. While delicious in its own right, I knew this challah would be even more amazing as French toast. I even "discovered" some blueberries from last summer in the freezer, which were easily transformed into my favorite, blueberry syrup. Honestly, you guys, this couldn't have turned out any better than it did! Between the juicy blueberries in syrup, rich creamy toast, and pockets of melted chocolate, I was in brunch heaven. Won't you join me? ^__^

P.S. - If you enjoy this post and my site in general, I'd be honored if you'd nominate me for Saveur Magazine's 2011 Best Food Blog Awards (nominations close April 22) =D.

P.P.S. - Almost forgot, I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event.


Chocolate Chunk Challah Braided Bread [Printable Recipes]
Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg
Makes 2 loaves

XIAOLU'S NOTES: If you're not familiar with 4-strand braids (which I wasn't), watching someone do it is really helpful, much more so than photos or written directions in my opinion. This is a good one I found on Youtube. My bread was overbaked, especially the bottom, so I recommend starting to check for doneness at 25 minutes and NOT using a dark baking pan. Lastly, I love the look of tall challah, so next time I plan to make one braid slightly smaller than the other and to stack the smaller braid atop the larger one for baking like this.

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, divided and more for sprinkling
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided [scoop and sweep measurement]
1 3/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp canola (or other flavorless) oil
2 Tbsp honey
3 large eggs, divided
4 oz. semisweet chocolate (preferably 62%), cut into chip-size chunks
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the water, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast. Stir to dissolve. If it does not foam in 10 to 15 minutes, discard and start with fresh yeast.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, salt, oil, honey, 2 eggs, yeast mixture, and remaining 1 cup of water. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl periodically. Add 3 more cups of flour, then switch to dough hook and knead at low speed, scraping the bowl from time to time, until an elastic dough forms. Only if the dough seems too sticky, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time JUST until dough is no longer sticky but still is soft. Let rest 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, shape dough into a 7 x 10-inch rectangle. Press the chocolate pieces into the dough and fold dough in half over the chunks. Seal edges and tuck under; let rest 10 more minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball by tucking edges under, and place in the bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board, punch down and divide into 8 equal pieces. Cover half the pieces with a kitchen towel, and roll the remaining 4 pieces into 15-inch ropes. Pinch the ropes together at one end, and set that end near the short side of one baking sheet opposite from you. Braid the ropes by continuing to weave the right-most strand over, under, then over the strands to its left (see notes above for video link). Pinch strands together at the end, and tuck both ends under slightly. Cover the 1st loaf with kitchen towel, and use the same procedure to braid the the remaining 4 ropes on the other pan.

Whisk remaining egg to make an egg wash and brush top of each loaf, being careful not to let egg run down to baking sheet (it can burn). Let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Twenty minutes into this rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Once loaves have doubled in size, brush them with egg one more time, and sprinkle with sesame seeds or sugar. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until top is glossy and brown, rotating the pans halfway through. If tops brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Cool completely on racks, then wrap well so loaves are airtight and store at room temperature or freeze if not eating immediately.

Challah French Toast with Blueberry Syrup/Compote
Adapted from Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook and pictures and pancakes
Serves 4 to 6

XIAOLU'S NOTES: If your challah is taller than mine, you may need to use fewer slices or make more of the batter and syrup so there's enough for all 8 slices. This french toast is delicious with regular challah, but I really enjoyed the combination of chocolate and blueberry. And the chocolate could be a wonderful surprise for guests digging into the final product.

1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 to 2 cups blueberries
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
8 (1-inch) slices challah bread, homemade (see above) or store-bought
4 tsp unsalted butter, or more as needed and to serve

In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup and 1 cup blueberries. bring to a boil and simmer until blueberries release their juices. remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 to 1 cup of blueberries. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the custard into a wide, shallow dish. Soak each slice of bread in the liquid, turning to coat on both sides, until the bread is saturated but not falling apart, 3 to 5 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in the pan. Working in batches, cook challah until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining challah, adding butter if needed.

Divide the toast among individual plates and serve topped with blueberry maple syrup and butter, if desired.

68 comments:

  1. This looks and sounds absolutely fabulous. I am happy to nominate you!

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  2. Wow, that looks SO good! The braiding is perfectly done.

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  3. This looks awesome, Xiaolu! You've braided the bread so beautifully! I particularly like the idea of serving this with the blue berry syrup!

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  4. That challah is magnificent and must be divine! Those French toasts are very tempting too.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. Oh my, this looks glorious!! Decadent & amazing, I love it. Craving French toast now :)
    Interesting concept about commitment. I find I do not struggle with commitment, but I think this is because I never seem to set myself unrealisric goals... I think I know what I'm capable of & how far to push myself. But yes, I think your concept of powerful hidden commitments is very true!
    Heidi xo

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  6. WOW! This challah looks absolutely Heavenly :) Bravo! More than happy to nominate you, Xiaolu.

    Cheers,

    Aldy.

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  7. What a great combination of flavors!

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  8. Re disconnect, I also wonder whether sometimes there is negative correlation with the level of knowledge. Sometimes if we know too much we tend to over-complicate or wait for perfect situations to take action whereas with less knowledge we would proceed...I wonder?

    Happy to nominate you.

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  9. Thanks, you guys, for the comments and willingness to nominate me. <3!

    Three-Cookies-That's an interesting way to think about it, too. In fact, in a similar vein, I believe there was a book written recently about how people in the modern age are often paralyzed by all the choices we get (in what products to buy, for example).

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  10. Gorgeous! I bet this tastes amazing!

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  11. This is stunning!!
    oooooh! lots and lots of chocolate!! can't wait for the chocolate posts!!

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  12. This challah looks and sounds so delicious! It turned out beautifully. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kinds words:)

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  13. Oh this is absolutely dreamy! Scharffenberger is my favorite type of chocolate and I love the idea of a challah with a bit of it in every bite!

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  14. Xiaolu, this is looking absolutely delightful... !

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  15. I'm all too familiar with Challah, having grown up in NYC, and part Jewish, we would have this bread on Easter, and I LOVE it, I've never tempted to make it myself, and I'm a bit intimidated by breads. I don't know anything about Scharffenberger chocolates....are they only US based?

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  16. Oh man, these sound so good! I am a huge fan of sweet breads, my family is Greek and they make different kinds at every major holiday and I always look forward to eating them. I love the idea of making french toast out of the challah bread, too! It must taste amazing!!

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  17. What a gorgeous looking braided bread. So befitting and also so good with the blueberries. YUM!

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  18. I make Challah almost every week, for the Jewish Sabbath, and we already have a favorite recipe. My kids have threatened my not to try any new recipes because we love ours so much, but I think even they might make an exception for this. Looks heavenly.

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  19. I think you know my feelings about a chocolate series on your blog ;) (To be clear, my feelings = Bring. It. On.)

    I shall be keeping my fingers crossed for a less common way of using chocolate that involves peanut butter :P

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  20. Yummm I love challah bread! Anything with chocolate is heaven for me :)

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  21. Challah is one of my favorite breads of all time! I have only made it once, and not with chocolate(What a fun contest to win!), but now I want to. Your loaf is BEAUTIFUL!

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  22. That is the perfect brunch IMO

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  23. Sips and SpoonfulsApril 10, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    I'm looking forward to this lots chocoa series. I'm sure you'll come up with some great stuff like this take on challah! To be honest I don't try and analyse my life too much but you've given me food for thought!

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  24. A beautifully braided challah! Love your French toast a lot. Mouthwatering!

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  25. This looks awesome! I love your website and will vote for you :)

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  26. This just reminded me that its been ages I made challah. I actually love sweet braided challah and with chunks of chocolate? Who you kidding - I'm coming to to eat it!

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  27. You got me there! I am huge fan of challah. And with chocolate it must be awesome!

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  28. Oh my god, I WANT! I've put off making challah for years since I didn't have a stand mixer, but after receiving one for Christmas, I no longer have any excuse!

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  29. That is a spectacular challah, the braiding is beautifully done. I love all the flavors here, the rich buttery bread the dark chocolate and of course the blueberries. I can see why you would be in brunch heaven.

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  30. Beautiful challah Xiaolu! That pairing with chocolate is just divine, who can resist that?
    In Greece we make a similar kind of bread for Easter called tsoureki but I never thought of adding chocolate chunks in it.
    Magda

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  31. I love challah. this chocolate one looks gorgeous!

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  32. oh my! this looks straight from a restaurant and magazine!

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  33. French toast challah looks and sounds amazing! :D Looking forward to all the chocolatey posts!

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  34. Thanks, you all! The addition of chocolate really kicked this bread up to the next level for me. Hope you try it!

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  35. Haha! Xiaolu, ya know what, I believe in the idea of hidden commitments. I think I'm one of the victims. Haha!

    This chocolate-studded challah would make good candidate for Laura Calder's "Lost Bread!" Your idea of serving alongside blueberry syrup is just as awesome.

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  36. Oh yum, this looks beautiful! The braiding's just perfect :) I'm looking forward to seeing more on this chocoholic series!

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  37. WOW! This braid bread is very pretty and sounds perfect with the blueberry syrup.
    I am happy to nominate you!

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  38. I gave up with New Years resolution, there's just no point in me making one :P

    Love the photo of the challah, and nice addition of chocolate! I'm currently baking through the Green & Black's (old) cookbook at the moment, so I'm used to unconventional chocolate recipes...chilli chocolate sausages is my aim! :)

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  39. Gorgeous looking Challah! You braided the bread so beautifully...!!

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  40. Such a beautiful braid. I am loving the fact the Challah has chocolate in it....wonderful combination.

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  41. Now that looks and sounds incredible! Your braided challah is gorgeous, and the french toast sounds utterly delicious.

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  42. Yum! This looks so good and I love your photos!

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  43. Wow, Xiaolu, you never cease to amaze with your talents. The braiding looks perfect and so does the French toast.

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  44. Congratulations on winning! I'm so excited to see what you'll share with us because I'm always looking for new ways to feed my chocolate addiction. Your challah is gorgeous even if you say it was a bit overbaked. Homemade challah is definitely something I want to try out as soon as I find the time!

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  45. Thx everyone!

    smalltownoven-it's really not that time-consuming if you're hanging out at home one weekend and have others things to do while it rises :). I haven't tried it but you can even do some of the rises in the fridge for a longer time.

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  46. That challah looks so gorgeous. I dont think a challah cld look any better than that! Congrats on wining the prize.Glad you won. because you made fantastic use of it!

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  47. the braiding looks really nice and chocolate and blueberry for breakfast sounds really good. wish i was there at the breakfast table too heh. ^^

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  48. I absolutely can't resist the pockets of melted chocolate! This looks gorgeous! Thank goodness you kept to your commintments to share such a wonderful recipe :)

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  49. beautiful braiding!! congrats on winning the gift basket! :D def looking to your future choc treats!

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  50. First time here and love your recipes and those beautiful photographs.

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  51. Gorgeous challah. Should remember adding chocolate next time.

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  52. Wow..That is one gorgeous loaf of challah..looks and sounds wonderful..awesome combination of ingredients.
    And congrats on winning the gift basket..looking forward to see more chocolate treats from you..

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  53. Oh wow! Lovely looking and I would love a bite!

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  54. supreme batch of challah, xiaolu! using it for french toast is inspired and drool-worthy, and that's that!

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  55. really looking forward to the series. what a wonderful take on challah bread. I have never baked one and neither have i done a pretty braided on like this. reading thru the ingredients it does not need many. Gotta try it someday.

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  56. Oh it didn't. Okay hahaha I just wanted to tell you that your loaf of challah is amazing and it made me love you even more when you folded chocolate into it. The first photo is absolutely beautiful I can almost smell the sweet buttery challah -- the unfortunate key word would be almost. If only I could taste it firsthand!!!

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  57. Gracias, my loves. You don't know how happy your words make me!!

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  58. This looks great! I'm so happy you won all of that chocolate too! Can't wait to see future posts.

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  59. OMG the challah looks absolutely gorgeous Xialo... wish to have a slice. So much tempted.

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  60. WOW!! now that's some delicious French Toast!! Puts mine to shame :-) super beautiful as always, you're recipes and images are so inspiring!!

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  61. Wow - that looks great! I'm super scared to make my own challah, but this definitely looks worth it!

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  62. Thanks, again, everyone! Hope it encourages you to make your own challah that even a non-bread baker like me can do it =)

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  63. I will definitely be nominating you dear friend - I am always in awe of your blog posts, and this one is no different. This looks amazing!

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  64. So this is your famous Challah!! I love it! Yours is bigger than mine, i made 2 challah, and both went away in 2 days! It was delicious, i bet yours is a delight, and more the way you prepared it!

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  65. Congratulations on winning the contest!! :) I'm totally in love with this challah you made. I looove braided bread and haven't had it with chocolate chunks before.

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I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu