It is hard to think of something more fitting to serve for Mother’s Day than babka. Named after the bubbes who baked them in Eastern Europe (babka translates to “grandmother’s loaf”), the brioche-tender, bread-cake hybrid, which comes swirled with chocolate or cinnamon, is the edible equivalent of maternal affection.
Meanwhile, Mother’s Day celebrations tend to center around breakfast in bed, which offers every excuse to abandon moderation for a morning and transform an already-decadent pastry into French toast.
Babka is enjoying something of a culinary renaissance these days, and stellar versions of its egg-dipped breakfast derivative can be found at artisanally minded Jewish eateries such as Russ & Daughters Café in New York and Wise Sons Delicatessen in San Francisco. But it is also simple to make an impressive version at home. Better yet, it can revive a day-old (or even week-old) loaf of babka that has gone a bit dry.
One of the beautiful things about bakba French toast — one of the many, many beautiful things — is that it comes ready to fry. With all of that cinnamon or chocolate already rolled into the bread, there’s no need to add extra ingredients to the egg-and-milk batter. That said, for Mother’s Day, why not guild the lily by whisking in a touch of coffee? Coffee deepens and intensifies the chocolate’s flavor, and gives breakfast a little morning zing of caffeine. (Save the good-quality grounds for the French press, and use instant coffee granules, which dissolve easily and don’t leave any grit behind.)
Your mom wiped your nose, packed you lunch and dried your tears, after all. It’s the least you can do to say thanks.
Chocolate Babka French Toast
½ cup milk
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules (not ground coffee)
1 tablespoon warm water
8 1-inch slices of chocolate babka (day-old is best)
Unsalted butter, for frying
Powdered sugar and fresh berries, for serving
1) In a shallow baking dish whisk together the eggs, milk and salt until well combined. In a small cup, dissolve the instant coffee in the warm water, then whisk into the egg mixture.
2) Working in batches, dip the babka slices in the egg mixture, turning to coat and letting it sit a few seconds to allow the egg to soak through.
3) Heat a couple of teaspoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add two dipped babka pieces to the pan and fry until golden brown, 2–3 minutes; flip and continue cooking until golden, another 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and continue with remaining slices of babka, adding more butter as needed. Transfer French toast to plates and top with powdered sugar and berries; serve warm.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).