This is the perfect winter time brunch dish. A nice thick piece of french toast is deliciously indulgent and particularly satisfying after a long night. This one in particular was eaten on New Year’s Day after a wild night out .
When I was a kid, I used to make a french toast that I thought was pretty stellar. Just some nice slices of Wonderbread dipped in a beaten egg that had some cinnamon and sugar in it. Slapped on a griddle, I would cook it carefully on both sides, and then drench it in maple syrup. That was my first taste of french toast and it was a pretty simple one.
As I started this whole epicurean thing of making things more gourmet, we improved on some versions of that classic recipe. I first use challah bread (or brioche) which is a little sweeter, more buttery, and also holds its shape better than Wonderbread (in fact, any type of bread holds its shape better). The custard base which I use to dip has some milk, but this particular one has pumpkin puree, which gives the recipe a great fall/winter twist. Lastly, we were able to acquire some great local sorghum syrup, which is a pretty classic southern ingredient. Obviously, you could use maple syrup in a pinch.
So to me, this french toast recipe not only evokes a sense of nostalgia for me since it’s one of my favorite breakfast items, but it also shows me how really simple dishes can easily become more gourmet by just switching out a few key ingredients. And that simplicity allows everyone to go on an epicurean adventure!
Pumpkin French Toast
(Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook)
1 loaf of challah bread or brioche bread
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 orange, zested
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T butter, unsalted
Combine the eggs, egg yolks, milk, cream, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, salt, orange zest, and vanilla into a wide baking dish and whisk to incorporate everything into a smooth mixture.
Slice the bread into thick slices (or whatever size you prefer) and dip a few slices into the egg mixture and turn to coat all pieces of the bread. Let sit in the custard for about 3-5 minutes.
Melt a little bit of butter in a nonstick pan over medium high heat. If you have a griddle, that’ll allow you to cook a lot of french toast at one time. Lay the toast in the pan and cook until the first side is golden brown, about 4 minutes, and then flip to cook the other side, another 4 minutes. When the outside is nice and golden brown, the french toast is ready.
If you are making a lot, you can keep all the toast in a warm oven (about 200 degrees F) so you can serve everything at once.
Continue cooking all the bread in butter until all the slices are cooked. You can discard any extra custard or use it to make more french toast tomorrow!
Served with some sorghum or maple syrup and maybe a dusting of powdered sugar, you’ll be in brunch or breakfast heaven! It will be great!