The other day, I got to introduce my father to babka, a delight he had never experienced before. “I like that pretty well,” he kept saying, which sounds like faint praise but—for him—is actually rather enthusiastic. The babka loaves (one chocolate and one cinnamon) were sent by a friend as an “I hope your bones heal” gift after I recently broke my ankle, but the whole family benefited. We inhaled it all, but I wish we had saved a piece or two for French toast.
What is babka?
If, like my father, you are unfamiliar with babka, you should get familiar with it real quick. The yeasted Jewish bread was traditionally made with an oil-based challah dough to keep things pareve (dairy- and meat-free), and swirled with fillings, most commonly chocolate or cinnamon. Most modern babka recipes are made with enriched doughs that include dairy ingredients, and you can find babka swirled with fruit, nuts, and even cheese.
A simple slice of cinnamon babka with a cup of coffee is, to me, an ideal breakfast, but I urge you to save a slice or two for French toast, especially if it lasts long enough to go slightly (or not so slightly) stale. Babka already has tons of flavor (and sugar) on its own, and turning it into an enriched, eggy dough makes for an extra indulgent bite.
How to make babka French toast
Since babka is quite rich to start with, you’ll want to dry it out a bit to make it ready it to receive your custard. Leave it out on a wire rack in the oven overnight, or dry it for half an hour or so at 275℉. Once it’s dry, you’re ready to French it up. Make your favorite French toast custard (keep it simple to let the babka shine), dip, and fry in salted butter. Again, as babka is already so sweet, I find a little salt is needed, as is a dash of acid. So instead of serving with the traditional syrup, try some tangy raspberry jam or orange preserves, or perhaps cold slices of cream cheese.