I grew up thinking that french toast was something you ate for breakfast any old day. (Lucky kid, right?) SUE! has a great recipe for it, and she’d use Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread and cut it in half diagonally to make triangles. As it would crackle and snap away on the grill top, it’d develop this dark, crunchy coating that kept it from getting soggy. It created a fantastic texture dichotomy – a crisp outside, and light fluffy inside. Yum.
She’d make a big batch of it and stick the triangles in the freezer, then pop them in the toaster and heat up a few for us to eat on the run to the bus stop. I can remember precariously placing the pieces in the pop-up toaster, and waiting anxiously for the sizzle that meant they were done.
I’m not sure when it finally occurred to me that not everyone’s mother sent them packing each morning with a homemade french toast breakfast, but I sure miss that tradition now. I just love french toast – it combines my two favorite things: bread and breakfast. I always end up getting it when we go out for brunch, no matter what flavor or variety. Paired with some fresh fruit and real maple syrup, it’s just unbeatable.
I’ve been working on my recipe for a while now, and I think I’ve got it nailed. This french toast is rich and custardy, with a complex yet mild flavor highlighted by vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly festive, I’ll add a tablespoon or so of rum into the mix. Don’t tell SUE!.
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s terribly versatile. You can use whatever bread you have on hand, and even make it the night before and bake it as you would a casserole. To cook and serve it in the morning, soak the bread for a few minutes per side, fry on the grill top and pop in the oven to stay warm and crisp. If you’re looking for an elegant (yet super easy) brunch dish, opt for thick slices of Challah bread and soak over night. From there, fry it off, or bake it in a 400 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes, or until crispy on the outside. Even when made with simple white sandwich bread, this is a rich recipe, and trust me, it will end up serving more people than you think.
You may not start eating french toast every morning like we used to, but this certainly is a great pick for Saturday or Sunday morning. And if you don’t finish it all, stick it in the freezer and reheat it in the toaster a-la-SUE!. Enjoy!
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Adapted from: Bon Appetit, December 2004
Serves: 2 – 4 (depending on thickness of bread slices)
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
3/4 cup milk or cream (2%, whole, half and half, whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 slices bread
fresh fruit and real maple syrup to finish
Whisk the eggs, then add the milk, 2 tablespoons syrup, sugar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Whisk to blend.
Heat a grill top or nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly butter.
Soak the bread slices in the egg mixture, flipping once, a few minutes total.
Work in batches and add the bread to the sauté pan and cook until browned on each side, about 8 minutes total.
Transfer to baking sheet and keep warm in an oven heated to 300 degrees until all slices are finished. Serve with real maple syrup and fresh fruit.