Sunday, February 7, 2010

From Our Kitchen to Yours: Crème Brulee French Toast

One of our most requested breakfast dishes is our signature French toast, which was featured in the Room at the Table cookbook published by the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky. A good portion of the recipe can be completed ahead of time, which makes it a lot less labor intensive in the morning. We snapped a couple pictures of Margaret filling the bread so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

Crème Brulee French Toast
Source: Nancy Swartzel, Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn

Crème Brûlée:
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon high-quality pure vanilla extract
*Lemon zest, optional

French Toast:
3 average-size, day-old loaves of plain, round French or Italian bread (You don’t want the skinny and crusty french baguette from bread bakeries; look for the softer French or Italian bread that is a bit thicker and rounder in the bakery section of Kroger or similiar-type grocery stores.)
3 eggs
½ teaspoon high-quality pure vanilla extract
½ cup half-and-half
Butter for griddle
Turbinado sugar (granulated sugar may substitute)
Fresh berries
Pure maple syrup
*You’ll also need a small kitchen torch.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and have a pot of boiling water ready. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, sugar, and salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until steam rises. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour the hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until blended. Divide this mixture among four 6-ounce ramekins. To ensure a smooth consistency, line the bottom of the baking pan or glass dish with a damp kitchen towel before adding the ramekins and boiling water. After placing ramekins in the baking pan, add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of ramekins. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake until custard is set, 25 to 40 minutes. (It took more time for me, but we used deeper ramekins.) Chill for 4 hours.

Cut bread into 1¾-inch thick slices. Using a serrated knife, cut a deep pocket on the side of each slice but do not cut all the way through.

Fill each pocket with as much crème brûlée as possible; typically 1½ to 2 tablespoons, but this may depend on the size of the bread being used.

The French toast can be prepared in advance and placed in the freezer at this stage. When ready to use, take slices out of the freezer, defrost in the microwave, and proceed with the next step.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, and half-and-half. Place filled bread pieces in the egg mixture and let stand until the bread is saturated, turning bread to coat all sides. (You may have to make more of the egg mixture if you are cooking the entire recipe at once. We usually freeze most of it for later, and prepare 8 to 10 pieces at a time with the egg mixture.)

To prepare, melt approximately 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet or griddle for each serving. Add bread and cook until toast is golden brown on all sides and the filling is hot. When taken off the griddle, sprinkle sugar lightly on top of bread and use a kitchen torch to caramelize sugar, using small circular motions just above the surface. Be careful not to use too much sugar on top of the bread, or it will be too hard to eat. Serve immediately with a side of pure maple syrup. Add fresh berries or a serving of bacon or sausage to this delicious treat!

Yield: 10 to 15 servings (serving size: 2 to 3 pieces).

*The kitchen torch can be purchased at a kitchen store for around $30.00. For a little zip, you can also add finely chopped lemon zest to the crème brûlée after the custard is set.

Orange Marmalade French Toast

If you are looking for another French toast variation, our Orange Marmalade French toast (pictured below) recipe can be found in the Breakfast section of our main website.

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