brioche french toast with apple compote.

brioche french toast with apple compote.

Some weekends are perfect for french toast. I was sick all last week, and the cold was definitely presenting some major deterrents to venturing outside for more than the most important of errands, so some warm, comforting food seemed like it would do just the trick. I’d made french toast dozens of times before, but never with home-made bread, so I decided to try out the brioche recipe from my brand new baking bible and then use the bread to make french toast.

qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

bread baby

Okay, so apparently what’s her face never actually said that thing about cake, but still, people probably should eat brioche, because it’s delicious. Anyhow, like I said, it was a super cold weekend, but I managed to drag myself out of bed to get some supplies at the store. After I’d braved my way back home through the cold, I got started. The recipes in Baking and Pastry are almost entirely given in industrial proportions (11 pounds of brioche or 10-12 loaf pans, for example), so I had to scale back the recipe quite a bit to get something approximating what we’d be able to eat without turning into rolly pollies. The book is also big on measuring ingredients by weight, which I’d never done before and made me feel quite fancy. So, armed with my brand new, neato food scale, I weighed out each of the ingredients before placing them in the mixer. Then it was a matter of getting my super awesome mixer to do its thing with the kneading and getting the dough into the refrigerator for a long nap.

Late that night, after a splendid dinner with Chris and Jodi, I took the dough out of the refrigerator, separated it into two loaf pans, gave it an egg wash, proofed it, egg washed it again, and stuck it in the oven. The proofing didn’t turn out quite as perfectly as I might have hoped (I had to cheat and stick the pans in a 100 degree oven for a bit to get them to perk up), but the loaves came through pretty much as well as I could have hoped for a first try. They’d risen very nicely, turned a deep brown and gotten airy and fluffy. Overall, I think it was a fairly resounding success from a girl who doesn’t know jack about bread baking.

toast a la francaise

brioche french toast breakfast

The following morning, I woke up early to get the french toast ready. Because the brioche was pretty fresh, I toasted it for a few minutes to get it to dry out a bit. Then I prepared the custard for soaking the bread. I used a recipe from epicurious, but modified it heavily; it called for six eggs and three eggs yolks. That’s basically nine eggs, people. Now, I love eggs and all, but nine eggs is pretty excessive for a recipe that prepares french toast for six people, unless you’re planning to go body building afterward or something. So I used three eggs and one yolk, then mixed them together with some cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, and almond and vanilla extracts. Then I poured all that over the toasted bread and let the slices soak for a few minutes. After that was set up, it was time to get started on the apple stuff. I heated some water with honey, sugar and cinnamon and then cooked it down with the apples until it got syrupy. I ended up with a bit too much liquid, so I had to drain some of it off, but after about 15 minutes it was a delicious apple compote.

After the brioche had soaked for a few minutes, I heated up the pan to fry them up. I had done some pretty hefty slices (about 1 inch thick), so they took about four or five minutes on each side to cook all the way through. I did two guys at a time and then stuck them in the oven at 350 to keep them warm while their friends were getting cooked. When everything was done, we sat down to eat with Coach and Boots. And oh gosh, it was really good. Really rich, but really very good. In retrospect, I would have used bread that was a bit less fresh and then soaked it in the custard for a much shorter period of time; the end result was a bit too wet. But aside from that, it was splendid. The apple compote was such a good pairing for the bread that I didn’t need any maple syrup. Hooray for winter mornings.

french toast redux: bread pudding

bread pudding devoured

The only problem with having made the brioche, however, was that we had nearly half a loaf left after the french toast, plus two slices that had been soaked in the custard but not cooked. We could have saved it for making more french toast the following morning, or used the rest of the brioche for spreading with jam or peanut butter or something, but I thought better of all that and decided bread pudding was the way to go. So later that night, we went over to Coach and Boots’ place and I whipped up a bit more custard, soaked the remaining bread in it, and baked it for about an hour. And okay, that french toast was pretty good, but the bread pudding was spectacular: the top had formed a bit of a crust from the baking, and the inside was melty and sweet and warm. As Boots said, “tastes like hugs.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.


french toast with apple compote
(adapted from epicurious)

apple compote.
water 2 cups
honey 1/2 cup
brown sugar 1/8 cup
lemon zest 1/4 teaspoon

ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
vanilla bean 1/2, split lengthwise
medium apples 3 (I used granny smith and gala), chopped
french toast.
large eggs 3
egg yolk 1
cream 3 1/2 cups
granulated sugar scant 2/3 cup

vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon
almond extract 1/4 teaspoon
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
6 1-inch slices egg bread (challah or brioche)

for the apple stuff: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, honey, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and then add the whole bean. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer five minutes. Add the apples, cover, and simmer on low heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a bowl. Boil the syrup in a sauce pan until the liquid reduces, about 10 minutes. Add the syrup to the bowl with the apples.

for the french toast: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolk, cream, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture into a 15x10x2 baking dish. Place the slices in a single layer in the custard; spoon some of the custard over the bread and let stand until soaked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the slices to a plate.

Preheat the oven to 300 and place a baking sheet on the middle rack. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle each skillet with a bit of sugar. Add two bread slices to the skillet and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the tops of the slices with a bit more sugar and turn the slices over to cook until golden deep on the bottom, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the slices to the oven and repeat until all the slices are cooked.

To serve, transfer the toast to plates and serve with the apple compote.

brioche (adapted from the Culinary Institute of America)

**Note: These guys do all of their recipes by weight, and I’m too lazy to figure out how much this stuff is in cups and teaspoons. Sorry, folks.

bread flour 1 pound
instant dry yeast 0.26 ounce
eggs, at room temperature 0.4 pound
milk, at room temperature 3.2 flounce ounces
sugar 1.6 ounces
salt 0.3 ounce
butter, soft but still pliable 0.6 pound
egg wash as needed

In a small bowl, combine the flour and yeast. Add the eggs, milk, sugar and salt to the bowl of a standing mixer and then add the flour and yeast. Mix on low speed with the dough book for 4 minutes.

With the mixer running on medium speed, gradually add the butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. After the butter has been fully incorporated, mix on medium speed for 15 minutes or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and grease the paper. Place the dough on the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.

Lightly grease 2 loaf pans. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Pre-shape each loaf into an oval, lightly flouring your work surface as needed. Refrigerate the loaves until cool, about 15 minutes.

Place the pieces of dough in the loaf pans. Brush lightly with egg wash, brushing away any excess. Proof, covered, until the dough is almost double in size and springs back slowly to the touch but doesn’t collapse, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently brush the dough again with egg wash. Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown and the sides of the loaves spring back fully when pressed, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

soak that

photos by the fantastically wonderful kenan “boy blue” rubenstein.

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3 notes

  1. Boots says:

    Yes, I have also experienced the egg-tastic french toast recipe. You end up with fried eggs toast – I dunno is that French? I could see this being an interesting approach for a savory breakfast though….hm….how about Four Pepper French Toast with Creme Fresh and Dill (and 9 eggs of course)?

    • girlcate says:

      I don’t know if fried eggs toast is French, but I do know that they don’t like much of anything to interfere with their bread.
      Savory french toast sounds awesome! I mean, if there’s savory bread pudding, there has to be savory French toast.

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