Challah, that stretchy, rich, lightly sweet, braided glossy bread that’s brushed with egg and baked to an burnished burnt umber shine, like many great traditional foods, does not exist in a vacuum. While challah is a Jewish ceremonial bread, eating on Sabbath and major Jewish holidays, and is usually paerve (dairy product-free, so it’s Kosher regardless of what is being served), pulled away from the Judaic lens, it’s a close cousin to brioche and other enriched breads.
And it is from this jump — challah is brioche-like; breakfast buns are brioche-like… — that I began making challah-ish breakfast buns last year. We adore them. They’re less rich and more fluffy than the usual gooey, rich and very sweet cinnamon rolls (which, of course, there is always a time and place for), they go well with afternoon coffee or tea, should you find yourself in the kind of civilized life where this is your norm (and please teach me your ways) but hardly abstemious. My two favorite fillings I auditioned were a sweetened cream cheese with jam (basically tastes like cheesecake) and a chocolate-tahini swirl. For a Food Network episode, we featured the cream cheese buns; they liked the story about my dad growing up in the Bronx and having cream cheese and jelly sandwiches from a local deli (as do I, less so that ridiculous face I’m making in the video still).
~ Thomas Jefferson