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, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, water, orange juice and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside off the heat to cool. Once cooled, stir in the vanilla.
To make the topping, in a large bowl use an electric mixer on medium to mix the butter or margarine for several seconds. 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 the oven to 350 F 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.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 605 calories; 230 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 84 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber; 220 mg sodium.
(Recipe adapted from Noah and Rae Bernamoff's "The Mile End Cookbook," Clarkson Potter, 2012)
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