This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's cookbook, Entree to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
When the Jews left Egypt and wandered in the desert, God sent manna from the heavens to feed them. On Friday they received a double portion because they could not work on the Sabbath. That is why we have the tradition of two loaves of challah on our Shabbat tables. Dew fell from heaven to protect the manna, and that is why many Jews today either cover their challahs with a special cloth or sprinkle sesame seeds on top to symbolize the dew.
Unless you have a large family or your two challahs are very small, you will have a lot of challah left over! This recipe is a good way to use your leftovers. Not only does the recipe provide a delicious way to engage a child in the kitchen, it offers opportunities to discuss the meaning of Shabbat and its customs.
A modern version of a soufflé, this recipe will not fail or collapse, since bread binds the ingredients together. This dish is perfect for younger children with short attention spans because the dish needs to be assembled several hours ahead of time or even the night before. This gives the challah time to absorb the liquids, and the dish will puff up when baked.
- Cut challah into 1/2-inch slices, and then cut the slices into 1/2-inch cubes;or pull the bread apart into small pieces if that is easier. The crust does not need to be removed if it isn’t hard. Set aside.
- In a 1-quart glass bowl covered with a sheet of paper towel, melt the butter in the microwave according to the manufacturer’s setting. Set aside.
- Using a mediumwhisk, whisk the eggs and the milk together with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- If not using packaged shredded cheese, grate the cheese on a coarse grater.
- Grease a 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
- Arrange 1/3 of the bread cubes in the bottom of the pan, and then layer 1/3 of the cheese on top. Make 2 more layers of bread and cheese, and then pour the egg/milk mixture over all. Lightly press down to make sure all of the bread layers are covered with liquid ingredients.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the dish in the center of the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and a thin pointy knife inserted in the center comes out wet but clear.
- Older children will enjoy the reinforcement of their math and geometry lessons with this recipe, and younger children can easily make this dish if you let them break the challah into little pieces with their hands and you buy packaged shredded cheese.
- Butter often splatters when melting because it naturally contains some water. To avoid having it explode all over your microwave oven, cover the dish lightly with a piece of paper towel when melting.
- It goes without saying that children under the age of ten or those not tall enough to reach into an oven should not be removing any hot baking dish from an oven.
- If a child is doing the testing to see if the soufflé is fully baked (step 8), the test should be done out of the oven with the soufflé dish placed on a counter. If the soufflé is not ready and it is taken out of the oven for too long, it will become dense when fully baked, so young children should not do the testing.
- Discuss why challah is so special for Shabbat. What’s your favorite challah? Does it have raisins? Plain? Flavored? Whole wheat?
- Did Jews always eat fancy braided bread?