However, as exciting and interesting as it is to try new dishes and cuisines, there are other foods that I have a certain fondness and appreciation for because they represent a certain nostalgia for me; they are dishes that are simple, familiar, and just plain good, the ones my mom made for us growing up and that that instantly transport me back to my childhood – for example, tomato soup on a rainy day, roasted chicken and potatoes for dinner, blondies for dessert, and of course, French toast for breakfast.
American breakfast, which I’ve talked about in previous posts, can be divided in to savory and sweet categories. The latter category can be divided in to three groups: waffles, pancakes, or French toast. Seeing as how we have so many readers from different countries on this blog, let me give a little background on the subject of today's post: French toast is bread that is dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and then fried in butter, and that is often served for breakfast or brunch in America. It is also sometimes called pain perdu and is most traditionally made using challah bread, French bread, or white bread.
My mom’s version of French toast is a bit different in that it uses cinnamon swirl bread with extra cinnamon in the batter, served with a healthy dose of maple syrup and sometimes a side of bacon. It is a dish that she continues to make for us when we are all home during our respective vacations, and I must say that I have never tried French toast quite as good as hers – anything I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant doesn’t quite make the mark.
My version of French toast is basically my mom’s recipe, but with my own twist – the French toast is baked in the oven and is served in ramekins, kind of like a bread pudding (nothing wrong with having a little dessert for breakfast!) I find that baking the French toast makes things much easier – you can put all of the ramekins in the oven at once instead of frying slices bread one at a time and risking the other pieces getting cold in the meantime. Plus, the presentation of these French toasts is really nice – they puff up like soufflés when they first come out of the oven, and everyone gets their own ramekin.
This makes a perfect breakfast for the weekend, a great addition to a brunch, and is super easy to throw together. If you cannot find cinnamon swirl bread, feel free to use challah bread, white bread, or French bread in this recipe. I’ve also had French toast made with leftover panettone or colomba, for those of you living in Italy – fantastic. Enjoy everyone!
INDIVIDUAL BAKED FRENCH TOAST
1 cup of whole milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 slices of sandwich size cinnamon bread (Pepperidge Farm brand works great)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly toast the cinnamon the bread a few slices at a time and let them cool (toasting the bread will ensure that it doesn’t get too soggy when you combine it with the egg and milk mixture – alternatively you could also use bread that is a couple of days old). Remove the bread crusts and cut the bread in to squares.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract. Add the bread pieces to the milk mixture and let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the bread/milk mixture evenly in to four 6-oz. ramekins and place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake the French toasts for about 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve right away with extra maple syrup to pour over the top. Serves 4.