This morning's breakfast came from my favorite breakfast cookbook, A Real American Breakfast. It's a comprehensive book on breakfast with 464 pages, thorough explanations, and some great photos. The recipe this morning: Cranberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast. A long title, but a simple recipe that's great for a weekend family breakfast or part of a wowing brunch with a big group. One of the great things is that it can pop right into a 250 degree oven once it comes out of the pan (or griddle), and it stays delicious. When I put it in the oven, I place the french toast on a cooling rack that sits in a sheet pan. This way, it stays crisp on both sides!
I picked up at the challah Fresh and Easy yesterday, thinking that I might make bread pudding, but this was a perfect use for the rich, sturdy bread. I followed the recipe fairly informally, making a few little changes, and with something like french toast, it's pretty tough to mess up.
Cranberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3-1/2 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp sugar
dash of salt
1 loaf challah or brioche bread, cut into 1" slices (I used 8 slices total)
unsalted butter and canola oil for the pan
First, make the cranberry-cream cheese filling by stirring 2 oz. of softened cream cheese and about 1/3 of a can of whole berry cranberry sauce in a small bowl (use more cranberry if you'd like).
Then, mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a shallow pie plate or bowl. The pie plate has the perfect amount of space for soaking 3-4 pieces at a time. Cut a pocket into the side of each piece of bread, careful not to cut all the way through. Spoon 1-2 Tbsp of filling into each slice. This may vary based on the size of your slices. Try not to overstuff or the filling may leak out. Soak bread in the egg mixture for roughly 1-2 minutes on each side. Enough time that the bread is moistened throughout, but not falling apart.
Heat a griddle or large skillet (I used a 12" cast iron skillet) over medium heat. I actually started heating up the pan on medium-low when I started the recipe. This seems to be just right to get the pan to temperature so that the pan is ready for the bread as soon as it's soaked. Before putting the bread in, melt 1/2 Tbsp butter with 1 Tbsp canola oil. Cook the bread for a few minutes on each side, until the French toast is golden brown on both sides. The time it takes really depends on your pan, so just keep an eye on it. When the first batch is cooked, place it in a 250 degree oven (as described above) or just eat it! Cook the rest of the French toast the same way. The recipe calls for serving the French toast with confectioners sugar and maple syrup, but we ate it as is, and I think I preferred it that way. I didn't feel like making it more sweet, to me it was the perfect tart-sweet combination.
The finished product, complete with bacon cooked Alton Brown style. This bacon deserves to be the subject of its own post...
The family loved it, so I think this recipe is destined for our breakfast hall of fame. The cookbook includes other intriguing variations like cranberry-orange, chocolate, and apricot sausage that I look forward to trying. This cookbook would make a fabulous Christmas gift and it would be easy to pair with other items like a cast-iron skillet, fancy mail order bacon, gadgets like a whisk or spatula, etc.
Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like a plate full of bacon.