Mother’s Crunchy French Toast

May 7, 2011 | By andrea | Filed in: Bread, Breakfast, Comfort Food, Holidays, Recipes.

This recipe for Mother’s Crunchy French Toast is, without a doubt, the best French toast I’ve ever made. Period. I’ve also ordered it at the source, Mother’s Bistro in downtown Portland, and this recipe produces a restaurant-worthy breakfast dish! It’s easy, extremely delicious and would make a great start to the day for mom (or anyone else for that matter!). Because of how rich this dish is, it’s definitely a special occasion meal and not something you would make every morning.

I used a loaf of brioche that I got at Trader Joe’s (I couldn’t find challah) and cut it into thick slices. Both challah and brioche are eggy breads that are perfect for this recipe. If you can’t find challah or brioche, Hawaiian bread would be a good substitute. I tried a few slices of regular sliced white bread and it didn’t work nearly as well as the thick-sliced brioche (the texture and flavor were lacking). Whatever bread you choose, use thick slices.

After a quick dip in the rich, vanilla-scented custard and crushed corn flakes, the pieces of bread are ready to brown in butter in the skillet. What you end up with is French toast that is crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and lightly spiced with cinnamon. OH MY GOODNESS…IT’S AMAZING! We were licking our plates.

I ended up with leftover custard so I made extra pieces of French toast. Serve the french toast with real maple syrup and fresh berries. Enjoy!

Mother’s Crunchy French Toast
-recipe from Mother’s Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again by Lisa Schroeder, Danielle Centoni 

If I had to pick our one signature breakfast dish, this would be it. French toast goes by the name pain perdu in France, which translates as “lost bread.” It’s a recipe created to save stale bread from being “lost” to the garbage by soaking it in eggs and milk to get it moist and tender again and then frying it up. Although you can certainly use whatever stale bread slices you have lingering in the fridge (except something strong-flavored like rye), fresh challah provides a wonderful richness. A roll in cornflakes adds a wonderful, addictive crunch. Serves 4.
4 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups cornflakes
1 loaf egg (challah) bread, sliced into six 1-inch-thick slices
9 Tbs. (1 stick plus 1 Tbs.) unsalted butter (divided), preferably clarified
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)
Softened butter, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving

If your pan isn’t big enough to cook all the French toast at the same time, heat the oven to 200°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, half-and-half, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla.

Place the cornflakes in another large bowl and crush with your hands until the pieces are small (but not like breadcrumbs) and somewhat uniform in size. Place a rimmed baking sheet nearby to hold the prepared bread.

Dip a slice of bread into the cream mixture, immersing both sides (saturate it, but do not let it fall apart).

Dip the slice into the cornflakes on both sides, pressing to adhere the flakes; set aside on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Place a griddle or wide (preferably 14-inch) sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes. If using an electric griddle, set the heat to 350°F.

Sprinkle the griddle with a few drops of water; they should bounce around before evaporating. If they sizzle away quickly, the heat is too high. If they just sit there and slowly steam, the heat is too low. When the griddle is properly heated, add 1 Tbs. clarified butter for each piece of French toast and tilt to coat the pan.

Add the prepared bread in an even layer. Cook until golden on one side, about 4 minutes. Lift each piece with a spatula and put 1/2 Tbs. butter in its spot. Flip the toast onto the butter to cook the other side, about 4 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until all the French toast is cooked.

Cut each piece of bread in half diagonally to make triangles. Arrange 3 triangles like shingles on serving plates, sprinkle with confectioners’  sugar, if desired, and serve with softened butter and maple syrup.

Note: Challah (pronounced HALL-uh) is a slightly sweet, eggy Jewish bread that’s becoming increasingly common at gourmet grocery stores and bakeries. Many bakeries often carry it on Fridays, for the Jewish Sabbath. If you can’t find it, substitute any soft, sweet bread, such as brioche, Hawaiian bread, or thick slices of Texas toast.

Clarified butter is important for this recipe because it allows you to cook the French toast at a high enough heat to get a proper sizzle going, ensuring that the toasts stay crunchy. If the butter isn’t clarified, the milk solids will melt and impart moisture, which can impede crunchiness. And when the solids inevitably burn, they’ll give a burnt flavor to the food.

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