How do Suzen and I pick recipes to blog? Suzen goes for strong, different, exciting. I do, too, but I also include consideration for sweetness, alcohol, and chocolate content. I’m not claiming to have a broader scope, but you can decide that for yourself.
That said, I try not to be selfish in my recipe selection. Sometimes I blog something, not because I want to, but because I feel a sense of social responsibility. Like this Cream Brulee French Toast made with challah. Do I care about French toast, or lots of cream, or an incredible number of egg yolks?
Yes, I do. But the real reason I’m blogging this is the record it sets. I have never, ever seen a recipe calling for a ¼ cup of vanilla. A teaspoon? Sure. Two? Yes. A full tablespoon? Rarely. But a full ¼ cup? I had to test this recipe, just for you.
My God, this thing is good. It’s incredibly rich. Your arteries will radiate with glee as you feel them gradually clog in oblivious delight. Every bite is intensely satisfying. I did not even try to add butter or syrup on top of this. Or, berries or sliced peaches. Those are all things you can try for an even more healthy experience.
The day after? It’s better. The vanilla permeates deeper into the cream and egg soaked bread. You can microwave this with no loss of texture or integrity. Then top it off with a sprinkling of brown sugar. Let the sugar begin to melt for a few seconds, then dig in.
I had a half dozen people taste test this recipe. Even Suzen, not a fan of sweet breakfast fare, loved it. Every single person did. They asked how it was made. They heard about the ingredients. They all stepped back with an expression of guilty shock on their face. “Well,” said one person, “it’s worth it.”
This recipe calls for challah and I used Suzen’s home made version. Her challah, based on years of experience, is exceptional and I’m sure that was as important as all that vanilla. Great bread, fresh eggs, fresh cream, and real vanilla will all make important contributions to this dish. You’ll probably, wisely, only make this a few times a year, so when you do, go all out.
Crème Brulee French Toast
Yield: 8-10 servings
- 1 large loaf of challah bread
- 8 large egg yolks
- 4 cups heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
- ¾ cup plus 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar ‘
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Grease a 2 1/2-quart oven-safe casserole or soufflé dish. Slice the challah into V2-inch slices, then into cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, 3A cup sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter. Put a quarter of the bread cubes in the casserole dish. Pour in enough of the cream mixture to cover the bread. Using a spoon, press the cream mixture into the bread so that it is thoroughly soaked. Continue layering in the same way until all the bread is soaked with the cream mixture. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the casserole in a larger baking pan and set it in the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the casserole. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until the top is light brown and set.
Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar over the top in an even layer. Use a broiler set on high (set the casserole just a few inches from the heat source) or a kitchen torch to cook the topping until the sugar becomes brown and liquefies. (It will harden as it cools.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
Source: The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman