Thursday, July 4, 2013

French Toast - an excuse to have dessert first thing in the morning

I love french toast. It's hard to make really bad french toast, but it's also hard to make really, really great french toast. I like to cook when I have a bit more time, and over the past couple of years I've experimented with a few different ways to make one of my favorite breakfast foods. This morning I declared victory.

Here's the step by step:

1/2 pint of strawberries
1 lemon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cut up the strawberries. Juice the lemon. Put the lemon juice, sugar, and strawberries in a bowl and let them sit for an hour or two. They're fine if they sit longer, even overnight in the fridge.

Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, but I think it's better with the salt)

Put sugar and water in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until the sugar has fully disolved into the water. Bring the heat up to medium and wait - don't stir - just wait. After 5-10 minutes the solution will begin to boil and later caramelize. There are at least a thousand articles out there on how to make the perfect caramel sauce, so I won't say much more other than once the solution turns amber in color, pull it off the heat immediately. I add the salt and vanilla to the cream, and then add the cream carefully to the pan - the whole pan will be going nuts for a bit, but that's to be expected. The caramel will clump and solidify. Don't worry. This is also to be expected. Put the pan back over low heat until the caramel is fully disolved and you have a smooth and consistent sauce. The sauce will thicken as it cools. You can now set this aside and start on the good stuff.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

I know... I'm putting this here for me as I always forget how much sugar to add.

The Ultimate French Toast

1 loaf Kneader's Chunky Cinnamon Bread (I want to try this same recipe with brioche, but this is the best option I've found this far)
6 large eggs (3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Whisk the eggs and the egg yolks in a bowl and set to the side. Combine milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt in sauce pan (if you're using something other than cinnamon bread, add cinnamon here as well). Stir occasionally over medium heat until the mixture is warm but not simmering or really hot. It shouldn't burn you if you quickly dip a finger. Remove from the heat and very slowly add the mixture to the eggs whisking the whole time. If you add the cream too quickly, you'll get lumps in the custard, or worse, scrambled eggs, so really, add the cream slowly.

Heat griddle to 350-400 degrees

First, cut off the ends of the loaf. Then, slice the bread into 1 1/2 inch thick slices - maybe a little thicker. Pour custard into something like a deep 9x13 pan. Submerge each slice of bread flipping as needed to make sure both sides absorbe as much custard as possible. Let each slice soak for at least 2 minutes and up to 5. Put a generous amount of butter on the griddle. The butter should sizzle, but not smoke. Cook each slice for 1-3 minutes per side (I'm really not sure on the timing here - just cook to desired browness and flip). Take the nearly finished french toast off the griddle and place on a baking sheet in the oven for 10-15 minutes. If done right, the french toast should have a golden brown crust with a soft moist (but not gooey) middle. It's somewhere between normal french toast and bread pudding and it's amazing.

Top french toast with strawberries, whipped cream, and warm caramel sauce. Enjoy.

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