If you have been following along, you’ll know that we get most of our groceries delivered via the United State Postal Service. The majority of our food mail comes from either Amazon or our “local” Fred Meyer grocery store 466 roadless miles away in Anchorage. The same goes for our co-workers here at the Lake. Once in a while, one of my colleagues receives a wrong order or too much of something and I become the recipient of some kind of random ingredient. When that happens, I like to imagine that I’m a contestant on one of those cooking shows that presents the competitors with a basket of ingredients – usually showcasing something foreign or little-known to the chef. Of course, I have the luxury of time and the Internet to compliment my culinary imagination.
My last “gift,” a jar of tahini, has been sitting on my shelf for a few weeks. Tahini is best described as a peanut-butter style condiment made from sesame seeds. It has a nutty flavor. But is has a sharpness to it, in my opinion, that can overtake the flavor. My first experience with tahini was as an ingredient in hummus. I actually prefer making hummus without tahini (see my recipe here).
So, the jar had been sitting, waiting for inspiration, until last Sunday. While perusing the culinary blogs I follow, I came across an article for chocolate tahini challah buns from Smitten Kitchen. The buns were beautiful. The idea of chocolate and tahini together evoked memories of a delicious treat I used to regularly enjoy – chocolate halvah – a rich Middle Eastern confection made of sesame flour and honey. Eggy challah bread is something I enjoy making and we both enjoy eating. This seemed like the perfect recipe to try on a baking Sunday.
We opted to drizzle a lemony glaze atop our buns and absolutely loved them. Yum! They were were loaded with complimentary flavors and weren’t overly sweet, making them worth the investment of time they required. (Be ready for hours to let the dough rise.) An abject lack of willpower had us eating half the buns on the day they were baked. But that meant more than half the buns were left over the next day. They were already partially dried out and had lost their appeal. How to resurrect them? A stroke of brilliance followed. A great way to revitalize day old bread is to turn it into overnight French toast.
Our review? Holy smokes! Forget eating the buns on the first day and go straight to the overnight French toast! The challah soaked up the creamy, eggy mixture and puffed up to a golden brown when baked. The swirled flavors of the chocolate and tahini couldn’t be beat. The presentation of lovely chocolate stripes sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with a lemony glaze is a guaranteed home run for your next Sunday brunch, or Monday breakfast, or Tuesday dinner. 😉
Chocolate Tahini Overnight French Toast
- 4 or 5 chocolate tahini challah buns, enough to fill the baking dish (see recipe below)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish.
- Cut buns into 9 pieces, 3 slices in one direction and then 3 slices in the other (think tic-tac-toe.
- Spread the bun cubes evenly in baking dish.
- Mix together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar.
- Pour egg mixture over cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the baking dish from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).
- Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and continue baking for 25 – 30 minutes. Surface should be lightly browned and the center will be firm.
Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup milk
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- Butter for baking pan
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup tahini, well-stirred
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Sesame seeds
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons juice
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, oil and milk.
- Add flour, yeast and salt.
- Mix until it comes together. Continue to knead dough for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Oil a large bowl and let dough rise at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until slightly shy of doubled.
- Butter a 9×13-inch or equivalent size baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.
- Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth.
- Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and tahini. Mixture should be a spreadable consistency.
- Assemble buns. On a very well-floured counter, roll out dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide (side facing you) and as far away from you (i.e. length) as it comfortably goes, usually 12 to 15 inches.
- Dollop chocolate mixture over and spread it over dough evenly.
- Roll dough in a tight spiral.
- Cut log very gently — it’s going to be a soft mess, use a sharp serrated knife, sewing thread works well here too — into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch segments.
- Arrange cut side up in prepared pan.
- Beat egg in small bowl. Brush tops of buns and tops of sides with egg and cover with plastic wrap.
- Leave it at room temperature to proof for another 60 to 90 minutes, until puffed a bit.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Gently brush tops and sides with egg wash again and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden-bronzed.
- Let cool slightly.
- Whisk glaze ingredients until smooth.
- Drizzle this over the buns right before serving.