Breaking the Fast the Italian Way

After 25 hours of abstinence from food and water on Yom Kippur, your family and guests will treasure each dish on your table — even if it’s just peanut butter and jelly. So why go crazy in the kitchen? There are times when simple is best: save your efforts for Passover, and go with an easy idea like a bread and wine trifle borrowed from the Jews of Piedmont, in North-Western Italy.

The region is famous for producing some of the finest wines in the world, including Barolo, which even made its way into the local break-fast tradition. While most Italian Jews break the fast with cakes or other sweets accompanied by lemonade, a little coffee and the occasional shot of liqueur, the Piedmontese are quite proud of their Bruscadela — basically a wine and bread trifle. Layers of toasted bread or challah are soaked overnight in mulled wine with sugar and spices.

While wine after a fast may not be the healthiest option (it’s likely to go quickly to your head), somehow the richness of the challah and the somber, contemplative mood still lingering from the holiday, temper its effects. Yet, if you have low alcohol-tolerance and are not in the mood for a deep mystical experience, you may want to try a grape juice version.

Piedmontese Wine and Challah Trifle

Serves 6-8

12-16 small slices of toasted bread (challah or brioche, crust removed)
1 bottle full-bodied red wine (if you can’t find Barolo, you can try a Chianti or a good cabernet sauvignon)
scarce 1/3 cup sugar (or more or less, to taste)
1 stick cinnamon or ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
3 cloves
3 juniper berries
3 black peppercorns
Optional: Peel of an orange, little ground ginger and/or cardamom

Add the spices and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, filter through a sieve or a coffee filter, and pour onto the challah or bread slices (previously arranged in a serving or individual bowls).

Allow to rest for at least 24 hours before serving.

If you are crunched for time, pour wine straight from the bottle over the toasted bread and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Kids Version: Soak the challa in grape juice (no sugar since it’s already sweet!) and sprinkle with little cinnamon.

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