Food & Drink

French toast: Fill it, soak it, brown it

French toast may be thought of as fancy, but it’s one of those thrifty dishes born of the desire not to waste stale bread. (The French name literally means “lost bread.”)

Here are tips:

Day-old bread makes far better French toast than fresh.

Choose a sturdy, dense-textured bread, in an uncut loaf if possible. Challah and French are my favorites. Though sliced a bit too thin, Pepperridge Farm Farmhouse White is a pretty good alternative. Stay away from breads with an open texture and large holes.

Slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick work best. Thicker slices do not cook all the way through.

If you’re starting with a fresh loaf, lay the slices on a wire rack, covered with a kitchen towel, overnight. Or dry them for 15 minutes in a 200-degree oven, directly on the oven rack.

Good, firm bread needs five minutes to soak through. If you use softer bread such as fresh challah, it will only need a minute or two.

SURPRISE-INSIDE FRENCH TOAST

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cream or half-and-half

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla, divided

12 thin slices day-old, firm white bread

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Confectioners’ sugar

Makes 6 servings.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla until frothy. Pour half the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Place 6 bread slices on top in a single layer.

Beat the cream cheese, maple syrup and remaining vanilla with a hand mixer or spoon. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of it in the center of each bread slice in the pan.

Place remaining bread slices on top. Press so cream cheese flattens slightly but doesn’t ooze out. Pour remaining egg mixture over top and set aside 10 minutes.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat until foam subsides. Use a slotted spatula to remove the French toast sandwiches from the custard, letting the excess drip back into the pan.

Place 3 in the skillet and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining butter and sandwiches. Dust finished toast with confectioners’ sugar and serve with jam or syrup.

Nutritional information per serving: 454 calories (56 percent from fat), 28 g fat (16 g saturated, 8 g monounsaturated), 211 mg cholesterol, 12 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber..

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” Contact her: ckotkin@MiamiHerald.com

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