If you boil down the concept of breaking the Yom Kippur fast to its culinary essence, two basic rules become clear - make it easy to prepare and make it easy on the stomach.
That's because one of the major aspects of this holy day of atonement, which comes at the end of the Jewish new year celebration, is a 25-hour fast. The day is spent in prayer and contemplation. And when it's finally time to eat, nobody wants to be rushing into the kitchen to make a complicated meal (or sitting and waiting for it when you're starving).
Plus, after an extended period of not eating, you want to ease the stomach back into satiety with a light meal.
Many families treat this meal, literally, as a breakfast and eat the kind of foods you might find at a Sunday brunch. So it's no surprise that all kinds of gentle dairy dishes, like eggy noodle or potato kugels and cheese blintzes, are served. Many of the convenient deli favorites, such as smoked fish or bagels with cream cheese also show up.
This twice-baked challah from "The Mile End Cookbook" is a perfect dish for Yom Kippur. The French toast-like dish can be assembled ahead of time, then baked just before serving.
The syrup and topping can be prepared ahead of time. Refrigerate the syrup for up to a week; the topping will keep up to five days.
•1/2 cup sugar
•1 cup water
•1/2 cup orange juice
•1 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
•1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
•1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
•8-ounce can almond paste, broken into pieces
•1/4 teaspoon almond extract
•1/2 cup slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
•2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
•1/2 cup all-purpose flour
•1 cup dried cherries
•Eight 1-inch-thick slices of stale challah, preferably day-old or older
To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water, orange juice and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, stir in the vanilla.
To make the topping, use an electric mixer on medium to mix the butter or margarine for several seconds in a large bowl. Add the almond paste and almond extract, then mix on low speed for a few seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and mix until the mixture comes together, about 1 minute.
Add the almonds and mix on medium for 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
With the mixer running at medium speed, slowly pour in the eggs; continue mixing until they're fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add the flour; mix for about 30 seconds. Add the dried cherries and use a spatula to fold them in by hand.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat it with canola oil or cooking spray.
Quickly dunk the challah slices into the syrup, shake off any excess, and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the topping onto each slice of challah, spreading it all the way to the edges of the bread. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.
Bake the challah, rotating the tray halfway through cooking, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, drizzle with maple syrup just before serving.