French toast has forever been one of my preferred breakfast foods. It is mildly sweet, and can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the toppings, which can range from versatile fresh or cooked fruit, to caramel drizzle, to wonderfully plain maple syrup. French toast can even have savory toppings. It pairs well with both bacon and sausage, and I’ve been known to eat it alongside a small omelet on a few occasions. There’s even a sandwich made of french toast, raspberry jam, and sliced ham. And it’s delicious and it’s called the Monte Cristo.
This recipe that I created is like a custard; a soft, caramelized combination that falls somewhere between bread pudding and french toast. It is delicious, but it is more rich and sweet than perhaps a normal version would be. I’ve served it as dessert a few times, but it also makes a killer breakfast.
Baked French Toast
(Makes 6 servings)
For the caramel:
2 Tablespoons whiskey or bourbon
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons salted butter
For the French Toast:
5 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup cream
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 1″ slices “French” or “italian” style soft bread
Optional: maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the whiskey/bourbon, vanilla and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat. Let the sugar dissolve, stirring frequently. When the sugar is just melted (this should take no more than 3-5 minutes) and steaming very, very lightly, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until is just combined, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and pour the caramel into the bottom of an 8″ by 10″ pan.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, crack and lightly whisk the eggs. Add the milk and cream, whisk to combine. add the cinnamon by sprinkling on top and stir lightly with a fork to mix in. If you stir too quickly, the cinnamon will clump up. Arrange the bread slices on top of the caramel in the pan. You might have to smoosh them together, but they should all fit. Once the bread slices are in the pan, pour the custard over.
It may seem like a lot, but use all of the custard. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 425ºF, bake for about 15 minutes more. Use a metal, non-slotted spatula to serve the bread slices from the pan. Serve warm, slightly above room temperature. This french toast is very good with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a heaping amount of unsweetened, freshly whipped cream.
*I have found that when I crack eggs, I prefer to crack them on a flat surface rather than on the edge of a bowl. This results in a more even crack and therefore less flaking of the shell into the bowl that you are working into.