Showing posts with label Oscar Party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oscar Party. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Best Tasting Dessert You Will Ever Make - Challah Bread Pudding Cake

I love challah, the egg bread traditionally eaten on Fridays for Jewish shabbat. But our family never finishes the entire loaf. The bread is so good, I looked for other ways to enjoy it.

Challah makes great French toast. A slice of dense challah absorbs the frothy egg and milk and still retains it shape. Cooked on a hot carbon steel pan with a pat of butter, the outside gets crusty as the inside stays custard-moist. A drizzle of warm maple syrup on top and we have a delicious breakfast.

So leftover challah is not a bad thing. It's a good thing.

The French toast got me thinking. How else could I use challah? I always loved bread pudding. So why not challah bread pudding?

I could have made the dessert in small cups, but I like to make bread pudding as a cake. The result was spectacular. The easy-to-make dessert is perfect for dinner parties, Oscar watching parties, Super Bowl Sunday, birthdays and anniversaries.

Challah Bread Pudding Cake

At our neighborhood bakery, a full-sized challah loaf weighs 24 ounces. The recipe uses half a loaf to make enough for 8-10 people. If you need to make more for a party, the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Whatever you need.

The challah should be day old or even a week old. If you aren't going to make the bread pudding cake for awhile, place the challah into an airtight bag and freeze for up to two months. When defrosting, brush off any ice crystals that may have accumulated on the bread.

For heavy cream, I prefer to use Trader Joe's because there are no additives. The heavy cream I see in markets, even ones that are high-end, has chemicals added.

Buy good quality chocolate without flavorings or nuts. Trader Joe's sells one pound bars of Belgium chocolate that are good. After opening the package, keep unrefrigerated in a sealed bag for freshness. If the chocolate turns chalky, discard.

Use one 9" round baking pan at least 3" tall or two 6" baking pans at least 3" tall. Do not use a spring form pan because it will leak during baking.

The baking pan needs to be at least 1" taller than the amount of batter because the cake will rise as it cooks.

Freezing the buttered, parchment lined baking pan for 15 minutes helps when you remove the cake from the pan after baking. 

So the challah pieces do not get mushy, as quickly as the toasted bread is coated with the custard, pour the mixture into the baking pan. 

Serves 8-10

Time to prepare 30 minutes

Time to bake 60-75 minutes depending on the size of the baking pan and the oven


12 ounces day old challah, torn apart into 2" pieces
1 tablespoon sweet (unsalted) butter
4 eggs
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint heavy cream, preferably Trader Joe's 
1 cup dark chocolate at least 60% cacao, finely chopped
½ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped (optional)
¼ cup powdered sugar 
½ cup shaved dark chocolate 


Preheat oven 350 F.

Place torn up challah pieces on a baking tray. Place in oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Place the baking pan on a piece of parchment paper, trace the shape of the pan with a pencil and use scissors to cut the parchment paper to size.

Melt butter. Using a pastry brush, paint the bottom and sides of the pan(s) with the melted butter. 

Place parchment paper round(s) onto the bottom of the baking pan. Paint the top of the parchment paper. Place baking pan with parchment paper in freezer for at least 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, with a whisk mix together eggs and sugar. Add heavy cream. Mix well. Add chopped chocolate. Add chopped almonds (optional). Mix together and add toasted challah pieces. Toss well to coat.

Pour into the buttered pan with parchment paper and place in to 350 F pre-heated oven.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

As the cake cools, it will shrink away from the sides of the pan. 

Place your hand over the top, flip over and remove the cake. Flip over so the parchment paper is on the bottom and place on the wire rack.

Once cooled, the cake can be placed in plastic wrap and an airtight plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen. Refrigerated the cake will keep fresh for 2 days. The cake can be kept frozen for up to a month.

Before serving, preheat oven 250 F, remove the parchment paper, place on a baking sheet, place into oven for fifteen minutes. Remove and dust with shaved chocolate and powdered sugar.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Best Ever Chicken Wings for the Best Ever Oscar Night Party

Watching the Oscars culminates a year of film releases and award shows. This year the Best Picture nominees group together films of extreme differences. Imagine a double-feature of La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge. Ok, don't imagine that.

My favorite films were Lion and Manchester By the Sea. Both were emotionally engaging and structured like thrillers.

For Sunday night I want to make a special plate of nibble-food, something that has some art and cultural diversity in its design. With that in mind, I hope you will try my use of a Vietnamese sauce to flavor the classic American bar dish, chicken wings.

Fusion how I love thee

The best aspect of fusion cuisine is when you discover a combination of seemingly unrelated flavors or components that, once you’ve paired them, make you think they have always naturally belonged together.
For me, the surprising match was an American bar food staple and an Asian comfort-food classic.
The popular Vietnamese dish pho, a giant soup bowl filled to the brim with meat and noodles, is traditionally served with a basket of fresh green vegetables and bean sprouts.. For seasoning, a dipping sauce is also provided.
As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the lighter pho ga, made with chicken, to its deeper flavored, beefy cousins. After years of eating pho ga I realized that part of my craving for the soup was because I loved the dipping sauce called nuoc cham gung.
Vietnamese pho
In the sauce, finely minced ginger and garlic mingle with flecks of dried Sichuan peppers in a vinegary-salty-sweet sauce, accentuated with lime-citrus notes.
With one of those wonderful epiphanies that happen to people who think about food a bit too much, I realized that nuoc cham gung would make a good marinade and glaze for my favorite appetizer, Buffalo wings.
Chicken on the bone, cooked on the grill or in the oven, has a moist-sweetness that is accentuated perfectly by my modified version of nuoc cham gung.
Because of its deeply flavored saltiness, fish sauce, variously called nuoc mam in Vietnam or nam pla in Thailand, is an essential ingredient in the recipe. Easily found in Asian markets, the sauce is inexpensive and lasts for years in the refrigerator.

Vietnamese Buffalo Wings

Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer
2 pounds chicken wings, washed, disjointed, wing tips discarded or reserved and used to make stock
½ cup white sugar
½ cup warm water
¼ cup fish sauce, preferably a light caramel colored brand
¼ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic minced
1 dried Chinese Szechuan pepper, stem removed, seeds and skin minced
3 tablespoons or 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
  1. In a large non-reactive bowl, dissolve the white sugar in warm water. Add the other ingredients, stir to mix well and add the chicken wings. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate one hour or, preferably, overnight.
  2. Remove the wings and transfer the marinade to a small saucepan, adding the brown sugar. Stir to dissolve and reduce by a half or, if you want a thicker glaze, by two-thirds over a medium flame to create a glaze that should have a good balance of sweetness and heat. Taste and adjust for more sweetness if desired by adding another tablespoon of brown sugar.
  3. The wings can either be grilled on a barbecue or baked in a 350 F oven on a rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Turn every 10 minutes. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Place the wings on a large plate of Asian noodles, steamed rice, or shredded lettuce. Just before serving, pour the hot glaze over the top.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Oscar Party's Best Snacks

Unless you use a dvr to record the Oscars so you can compress the show to fifteen or twenty minutes of highlights, you'll need some good snacks to keep you going during the 3+ hour festivities.

The easiest route is to order-in.

A large pizza with your favorite toppings and a green salad will do nicely. Getting one from Dominos is ok. From Pizzeria Mozza in West Hollywood or Milo + Olive in Santa Monica would be even better.
If you want to treat yourself but do very little cooking--just enough so you showed you care about what you eat--a big bowl of freshly made popcorn, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and tossed with a goodly amount of melted sweet butter will definitely keep you happily snacking through the first hour. (Be sure to have plenty of napkins for buttery finger-and-face-clean up.)

On the other hand, you could put in the time to prepare an elegant dinner party, served in front of the television.

Prosciutto and a soft cheese like triple cream with crackers for an appetizer, home made gnocchi with fresh vegetables, grilled lobsters stuffed with sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms and a banana walnut chocolate cake and coffee at the end would be delicious.
This year, we'll have a simplified version of a dinner party for our friends who are coming over to watch the Oscars.

During the opening monologue and the first awards, we'll have a homemade tapenade with butter-olive oil fried lavash crisps as an appetizer.
For the main course, we'll have a tossed arugula salad with carrot rounds and a reduced balsamic-olive oil dressing and a spaghetti with farmers market vegetables.
We'll save dessert for the last half hour so. As the final awards are announced, we can be enjoying a plate of Valencia orange sections and a selection of the chocolates I've been making (and devouring at an alarming rate).


Better quality olives produce a better tasting tapenade. Use whatever olives you enjoy. Green, black or red. The choice is yours.

Yield: 4

Time: 15 minutes


2 cups, pitted olives, black oil cured or cracked green
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
2 tablespoon capers
1 garlic clove, peeled, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne, a light dusting
2 anchovies (optional)
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)


Put all the ingredients into a blender and pulse until the olives, capers, and parsley have combined into a paste. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the pulsing blender until you have the desired consistency.

Lavash Crisps

Fresh lavash is available in most supermarkets. If you live near a Middle Eastern market, you will find a good selection of whole wheat and white flour lavash. Check the labels and find ones without chemicals.
Yield: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes


2 large sheets of lavash
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper


Spread a single sheet of lavash on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheet in half. Lay that sheet on top of the first and cut in half again. Cut the lavish into pieces approximately 2" square.  Stack them up and put aside. 

The uncooked squares can be stored for several hours in the refrigerator in sealed plastic bags.

Place a layer of paper towels on a large plate or cookie sheet.

In a large frying pan, melt half the butter, add half the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Heat the oil over a low flame. Cook the lavash in batches. 

Add lavash squares to the pan being careful to avoid overlaps.

As they cook, be careful they don't burn. Turn when they brown on one side and remove when they are brown on the second side. 
Remove the lavish crisps and place on the paper towel. Do not overlap. Place a paper towel on top.

As you fry the crisps, add more butter and olive oil as needed.

Serve the crisps at room temperature. To keep them crisp, serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Just before serving, on top of the lavash crisps sprinkle freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese with rosemary.

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