I usually eat breakfast alone. If that sounds lonely, a quick peek at Simply Breakfast can teach you that solo breakfasts are an art form- intimate, meditative moments where coffee and toast become the stuff of ceremony. (Sometimes solo breakfast is a floppy packet of microwaveable oatmeal, but i’m not going to go there).
My normal routine is as follows: I turn on the coffee machine and make a cup of coffee, which I drink while making breakfast (oatmeal, rye toast, or yogurt, or a hybrid I like to call “toastmeal” or “toastgurt”). When I sit down to table there’s half a cup of coffee left, and just enough time to enjoy before I make the mad dash to the bus stop.
The other morning, though, I wanted something different. With two stale loaves of Zingerman’s challah on hand, it seemed a crime not to make French toast. But, I wasn’t sure where to begin, because my idea of French toast has evolved considerably since it sprang into existence on a plate in my parents’ kitchen. I didn’t want the kind of French toast that is essentially a piece of bread with an egg fried on the outside- I wanted the creme brulee French toast from my beloved (and now closed ) Cafe Mozart.
Sadly, this French toast is not that French toast*. It is, however, the perfect French toast for me right now. Made with half-and-half, it’s not quite as guilt inducing as the “Bell-less, Whistle-less Damn Good French Toast” from food52, and the recipe has enough (easy) steps that you feel like you’re actually making something special, not just dunking a slice of bread in some egg. Because the toast gets a last-minute bake in the oven, it ends up with crisp edges, which are a lovely contrast to the custardy interior. My first batch came out a little dry, so I recommend taking liberties with the soaking time, and adding plenty of maple syrup or fruit topping.
(*please tell me I did not just reference an Old Spice commercial while discussing French toast…)
recipe adapted from Alton Brown, via foodnetwork.com
1 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs
2 tbsp honey, microwaved for 20 seconds
1/4 tsp salt
8 (1/2 inch) slices of stale challah, brioche, or good white bread
4 tbsp of butter
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. I like to do this when the ingredients are all at room temp, aided by a quick jolt in the microwave (for the half-and-half) or a soak in warm water (for the eggs). Pour the custard into a pie plate.
2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Soak bread in the custard (at least 30 seconds per side, more if the bread seems too dry) then transfer to a cooling rack sitting in a sheet pan. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes, to let the bread absorb the custard.
3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a 10 inch skillet set over medium heat. Cook 2 slices at a time until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove them from the pan and place on a rack in the oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices, then serve with maple syrup.