Jeremy hasn’t had much free time for breadbaking since he went back to work at Willamette, and boy, do I miss it. You’d think this would encourage me to do more baking of my own, but I am still concentrating on improving my cooking skills, so that means baking of all sorts—yeast breads and quick breads, cakes and pies and cookies—have taken a backseat in my mind. Of course, I still have a sweet tooth, so every now and then I can’t resist making a confection, and Jeremy is no less a bread fiend, so I periodically toss together some biscuits to go with dinner. But I still miss having gorgeous crusty loaves of fresh homemade bread to nosh on.
Jeremy took pity on me and made a batch of pane siciliano from The Breadbaker’s Apprentice last weekend, a favorite bread for both of us that works well in both sweet and savory applications. The other nice thing about it is that it makes three big loaves, so we were swimming in fresh golden bread for several days. We used the last of it, a bit stale, to make French toast a la Alton Brown, and it was truly some of the best French toast we’ve ever had, worth the slight fussiness of the recipe.
The original recipe is below. I made some modifications to suit what I had sitting in the fridge, and it was very forgiving, so I imagine it could be modified further with success. I used part whipping cream, part 1% milk, and since we arenâ€™t good at advance meal planning when it comes to something simple like French toast, I made the custard right before we ate. I was a little afraid of melting our cooling rack, but it survived the oven just fine, and I think could come in handy for other warming or reheating applications as well. The toast came out just as he described it on the show, crisp on the outside and creamy inside. Jeremyâ€™s only request for next time was some cinnamon added to the custard.
Alton Brown’s French Toast
1 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
4 tablespoons butter
In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.
Source: Good Eats, with Alton Brown
Update 2/23/07: I made this for dinner tonight, using rather stale and mediocre sourdough bread from the grocery store. It still came out very nicely, though. Sprinkled cinnamon on one side at Jeremyâ€™s request, and served with applewood-smoked bacon.
Update 3/6/07: Jeremy requested French toast for dinner again last night. I didnâ€™t bother looking it up, so I think I used 3 eggs, about 1/2 C whole milk, 3 T warm honey, a pinch of kosher salt, and a driblet of vanilla extract for the custard. I made the toast with 6 pieces of a fresh loaf of Oatnut sandwich bread, which was really too soft to stand up to the Alton treatment, but it still tasted pretty darn good with a sprinkle of cinnamon and some maple syrup and crisp bacon.
Update 5/7/07: French toast for dinner on Friday. I had to use a fresh loaf of potato sandwich bread, which was about as soft and squishy and fresh as it could be. I popped the slices under the broiler while the oven heated up and I made the custard, but they still needed just a very quick soak in the custard (a few seconds) to keep from falling apart altogether. I made the custard with 1% milk and a dollop of full-fat sour cream whisked in, because thatâ€™s what was on hand. It worked out just fine, and gave the toast a bit of a sourdoughy flavor. I added some cinnamon, vanilla, and a plop of brown sugar to the mixture to balance the sourness though.
Update 7/11/07: Jeremy asked for French toast for dinner last night, after we got home from our first puppy training class. The bread in the fridge was a loaf of Struan from Marsee Bakery, and it held up nicely with this method of making French toast, to my slight surprise, since I typically prefer plain white breads for my French toast.
Update 8/9/07: Jeremy requested French toast for lunch yesterday, so I broke out the leftover wheat berry sourdough bread in the fridge and served it up with some bacon. Not exactly the quickest lunch, but it hit the spot, and the bread held up really nicely.