Pain Perdu (The Best French Toast EVER)
It's been suggested that I might want to unplug from time to time; turn off the Cooking Channel on TV, take a break from browsing my favorite food blogs on my tablet, alphabetize my cookbooks instead of repeatedly flipping through them and stop doing creepy drive-bys of the local grocery store. This continual stream of deliciousness forever parading in front of my eye-holes makes it impossible for me to NOT cook what I see and read about.
Such is the case this past Easter Sunday. Holidays are special to me for no other reason than the memories of family and friends they invoke. I suppose I must also admit that I look forward to holidays for the sole purpose of using it as an excuse to make something incredibly smashing and not feeling too guilty if the calorie count is off the charts. I'd been saving up this recipe for French Toast on steroids for a while and I enjoyed every moment of the making of it.
Fair warning, this is a very dangerous recipe. It will make your thighs bulge, your tummy threaten the buttons of your pants, and quite possibly send you into a serious food coma afterward (it did with me and the puplets), but it will also be one of the best damn things you've put in your mouth-hole and as it bakes in the oven it will fill your house with the most amazing smell sugar and vanilla. You're welcome.
Adapted from a recipe by Marc Murphy
*You can easily halve this recipe if you're cooking for one or two
4 3" thick slices of country bread
4 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brandy
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
All-purpose flour, for sprinkling
Powdered sugar, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Fresh berries, for serving
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
If you have very fresh bread, I recommend slicing it into the 3" thick pieces and letting it set out for a few hours before soaking it overnight. Day-old bread is great for this - you want the bread to be dry enough that it really soaks up all the custard.
Whisk together the cream, sugar, vanilla, brandy, salt and eggs. Feel free to use a blender to make sure everything is blended together nicely. Place your bread in deep bowl and pour the custard mix over. Let it it for a few minutes, then turn the bread over to ensure proper absorption before covering the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight.
Prehead the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Sprinkle a little bit of flour and sugar on the top of the bread slices. They've been soaking for a long time and the flour and sugar will help create a lovely crust on the outside of the bread. When the foam from the butter subsides, put the soaked bread in the pan and cook on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the bread and place the pan in the oven until cooked through and custardy in the middle, about 10-15 minutes.
Unlike most french toast recipes, this did not call for cinnamon, which I really like. I had a lot of ricotta cheese in the fridge I needed to use up, so instead of putting cinnamon in the custard mix, I made a sweet little ricotta spread by mixing 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into 1/2 cup of room-temperature ricotta. This is totally optional, but I enjoyed it.
Serve your pain perdu with maple syrup and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.