March 07, 2014

classic french toast

Just this week, I told my husband as soon as we sat down to this breakfast that I think french toast is one of the things that I love to make the most. I love the entire process. Every step. The whisking together of fresh sweet ingredients. The soaking of the bread. The sizzle in the cast iron skillet when the sweet, soaked bread hits the pan. The beautiful browning. And the plating of perfectly-toasted-but-moist-inside slices covered in warmed syrup and topped with sugared berries. I love it. All of it. Then to top it off - I get to sit down an enjoy a plate, savoring every sweet bite! Isn't it so pretty?! I'm swooning again. I can't help it.

French toast is a dish that I usually make for Saturday morning breakfast. But as pretty and fresh and sweet as it is, I think it also makes a very unexpected, rustic, Southern dessert. Gosh, a big dollop of homemade sweetened whipped cream and who wouldn't want to dive in with a fork and a cup of good decaf?! 

And most of us have everything we need to make this dish right in our fridges and pantries! Bread, eggs, milk or cream, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and syrup! Don't you have all of those things right now?! See, I told ya. The heartier the bread the better, but sandwich bread will do in a pinch. I've made french toast with cinnamon raisin bread, leftover sourdough or Italian loaf from the deli, Texas toast, and even croissants! French toast is a perfect way to use up whatever bread is about to go bad. In this case, I sliced a loaf of homemade sourdough bread that I made with my friend Mrs. Kathy from my church. It was divine! Every bite. And it turned out so pretty that I thought it'd be a perfect recipe to share with you for your weekend! Serve this dish with a side of bacon, and it's over-the-moon good!

{serves 4-6 people, depending on your people}

8 slices of day-old bread, approximately 3/4-1" thick
1 1/2 cup half and half, or at least 2% milk (not skim or 1%)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons good vanilla
several tablespoons of butter for cooking + more for serving

Preheat oven to 300 degrees to create a warm, holding area for the french toast slices as they come off the pan. Place a wire rack inside a baking sheet; set aside.
Preheat a nonstick pan or a seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. (I use cast iron, and I think you can't beat it!)
In a medium mixing bowl, combine half and half (I use fat-free), eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Whisk together til combined, and pour custard into a pie dish or 8x8 baking dish. Working with two pieces of bread at a time, lay the bread in the dish and allow to soak on each side for 30 seconds. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the preheated pan, and place the two pieces of soaked bread in the skillet, cooking until golden brown on each side. 
Remove the french toast slices and place them on the baking sheet/wire rack and store in the warmed oven while you prepare the rest of the bread. 
Soak, cook, warm two pieces of bread at a time until all 8 pieces are finished and stored on the wire rack. Serve immediately topped with warmed syrup and berries and dusted with a powdered sugar. Or serve with homemade sweetened cream for an extra treat!