Friday, August 30, 2013

An Everyday Dish Everyone Needs to Know How to Make: Vanilla-Cinnamon Raisin Challah French Toast



A new acquaintance I made was mortified when a compliment she attempted to make came out sounding the wrong way.  After I had served some bruschetta and guacamole, she declared that I knew “how to make things that everyone is supposed to know how to make.”  Being newly introduced to each other, she was afraid that the comment might appear to damn me with faint praise—that I might interpret her remark to mean that I am not a special cook, just an assembler of items that everyone knows how to make.

Of course I realized exactly what she meant.  At the time, we were both much younger and—obviously—less experienced in the kitchen than we are now.  She was simply pointing out that people who got started on cooking by using recipes find themselves flailing when they discover that there are not recipes for simple dishes—like bruschetta and guacamole—that everyone is supposed to know how to make (but don’t always).

French toast is a dish that falls in this category of too-simple-to-require-a-recipe.  But, for really nice French toast, it’s not a bad idea to have some reminder of basic principles.  In addition to plain French toast, two other kinds I like making are Mascarpone-stuffed Brioche French Toast (for another post, after Will bakes me some more brioche bread) and Raisin Challah French Toast.

Ingredients:


4 extra-thick slices of Raisin Challah bread (we like day old Breadsmith bread)
1 large or extra-large egg
1/3 cup half-and-half
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch ground (Saigon) cinnamon
tiniest pinch of fine sea salt

1 teaspoon butter for the pan, and more for serving
Pure Maple Syrup (warmed up)

1.  Beat egg and half-and-half together, then add vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt.  Mix well.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes for flavors to meld.

2.  In a shallow wide pan (preferably a square flat pan), melt the teaspoon of butter over medium heat.

3.  Beat egg mixture right before adding bread.  One at a time, dunk each slice in the egg mixture and turn to coat.  Some people like to soak the bread longer (and you might need to if the bread is older than day-old), but I like to be quick about the dunking process and let the custard soak in later in the process.  Just dunk and flip and then place in one corner of prepared pan.  Repeat with remaining slices.


4.  After you have placed your final slice in the pan, wait another coupe of minutes.  If the toast is not browning more quickly, you might raise the heat to medium-high (depending on your stove).  Not flipping the bread too soon allows the egg mixture to soak in and let the toast get its custardy center.  Once the bottom is browned to your liking, turn each piece (in order they went in the pan).

5.  When both sides are browned to your liking, remove from heat.  Serve with warmed maple syrup (microwaved for 10-15 seconds) and more butter.  Bacon is always a nice complement to breakfast food that includes maple syrup (like French Toast and Pancakes).


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