The Free Range Gourmet Free range thoughts on the finest ingredients, cuisine, and fine dining in Hawaii.

Range Gourmet

  Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair

        ^BNanette^K^H (Gone but not forgotten) 1946-2020


Sunday, July 24, 2011


Sunday morning: Challah French toast

by Nanette Geller

When we lived in Brooklyn, I stood in line outside the local Jewish bakery on Fridays for fresh challah, hot and fragrant from the oven. Even in winter, it was worth the wait. The shiny, dark brown crust hid a tender, golden crumb that was better than cake.

Challah is a lot like France’s luxuriously rich brioche and Hawaii’s beloved Portuguese sweet bread. All are made with lots of eggs. But challah is made without butter or milk, which in a kosher home would make it unusable with meat.

In Hawaii, sweet bread is the bread of choice for French toast. Since moving here, we’ve indulged often in sweet bread French toast, both at home and in restaurants. But good as sweet bread is, challah is even better.

Compared to sweet bread, challah’s crust is browner and the crumb has more structure. Soak sweet bread in milk and eggs too long and it turns to mush. Challah can be soaked through and not fall apart.

I’ve bought challah a couple of times from This Is It, the bagel bakery on Cook Street. It’s available only on Friday mornings, and sells out quickly. A couple of weeks ago, I learned that Ba-Le/La Tour Bakehouse has started supplying challah to Whole Foods, both in Kahala and Kahalui. It’s baked Thursday night only, for delivery on Friday. It’s not available at La Tour Café or the farmers markets where their breads are sold, but I was able to order one for pick up at the KCC market on Saturday.

Saturday evening, I cut off the narrow ends to eat with dinner. At two days old, it was no longer perfectly fresh but still had a satisfying flavor and texture. But it really didn’t matter. What we wanted was challah French toast, and by Sunday morning the slightly dried bread was perfect for soaking up the batter.


french toast


The special Free Range Gourmet touch? Orange juice in the egg batter. We love the bright citrus taste and it adds just enough sweetness without being cloying.

For three thick slices of challah I used three eggs (from Blue Lotus, of course) beaten with about three tablespoons of orange juice and three tablespoons of milk, and seasoned with salt, pepper, cardamom and Big Island vanilla.

The challah was soaked in the batter until it was completely saturated, then fried in about a tablespoon of butter over moderate heat until it was cooked through and beautifully browned on both sides. I cooked the slices whole, then cut them in half to serve.

Ceylon cinnamon, real maple syrup, sliced apple banana (SKA Tropicals). Vietnamese cinnamon is on the table as well. So is calamansi (SKA, not pictured) to squeeze over. Not on the table: butter.

Yee’s Farm Golden Glow mango (Made in Hawaii).

Caffè Americano made with Koko Crater Coffee’s Maika’i espresso.

I love Sunday mornings!


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