Wednesday, March 7, 2012

French Toast Fantasia: Nancy and the Créme Brûlée French Toast

Editor's Note: And now a word from Nancy:

As you may have read from Terry’s earlier post on French Toast Cupcakes, I am taking control of the my-mess-their-kitchen ship for a brief while to present to you our other baking project of the weekend: crème brûlée French toast!  I have had this recipe in my email for a while, just waiting for the right day.  Terry’s mad kitchen skillz (yes, this deserves a “z”, folks) and a free Sunday morning convinced me it was time we give it a shot. 
We knew an egg with a double yolk was an auspicious start to our day of baking.
Crème Brûlée French toast
Servings: 8 – 12 

1 medium-sized loaf white bread, thickly sliced
1 1/3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Amaretto
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Caramel Topping
2/3 cup granulated sugar

  1. Cut the bread into one-inch thick slices.
  2. To make the creamy liquid custard, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar, salt, Amaretto and vanilla extract.
  3. Arrange slice of bread on baking sheets with rims.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  5. Pour custard over the bread slices and let it sit for about 30 minutes, flipping the slices mid-way to allow for maximum absorption on both sides.
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and transfer the custard-soaked slices of bread onto the newly prepared sheets. Be sure to leave a bit of room between the slices so they don't bake together.
  7. Bake the French toast slices for 30-35 minutes, flipping at the halfway point. If you insert a small knife into the center of a slice and, after twisting it slightly no liquid is released, then the toasts are ready.
  8. To caramelize the tops, leave the toasts on the baking sheet and have a spatula handy. Melt the remaining 2/3 cups sugar in a small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir with a small spoon until it is fully melted and turns the color of honey. Immediately spoon one tablespoon or so of caramel over the first slice of bread, spreading it evenly and thinly* over the top with the spatula. Working quickly, repeat with the remaining bread slices.
Caution: the melted sugar is super hot and will burn skin upon contact. Keep arms and fingers clear of the drips! Indeed, after our day of baking, Terry was sporting two new battle scars. The sugar was so hot it actually cut his finger not to mention the burn he got from an inadvertent sugar splash.

*Upon eating our French toast, we discovered that if there was too much caramel topping it was too hard to cut into and eat. Therefore, be sure to spoon only enough to thinly cover the top of the toast.

Note: Hot water will dissolve any remaining caramel in the saucepan. It might take a few hot water rinses, but it will eventually come off.

Serve with berries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Ultimately this baking project was a delicious way to spend the morning.  The Amaretto really stood out and was a nice counter to the creamy crème brûlée taste.  We found that though maple syrup was not necessary, we were missing that cinnamon-y taste that accompanies traditional French toast.   It would be worth experimenting and adding some cinnamon to the custard the next time around.

And for those of you who are wondering, yes, Terry does indeed make a mess when he’s cooking:

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