May 10, 2017

S'mores French Toast

Mother's Day is coming up, and for some reason that always means fancy brunch recipes. Sure, you could wait in line forever at your local trendy brunch spot, but a brunch at home is just as good and you can sit in your pajamas eating as much bacon as you want without being judged. I mean, I can do that at Waffle House and nobody would even blink, but you can't have fancy quiche, blueberry coffee cake, or this insanely delicious french toast concoction at Waffle House. You can always use this base recipe for French toast and spice it up with berries, peaches, toasted nuts, nutella, and/or chocolate, but here I'll tell you how to s'more-ify it for maximum gooeyness.

For my family, all good French toast starts with Challah bread. Challah is kind of like Jewish brioche; it's a rich, dense braided egg bread that is perfect for soaking up the French toast custard. They do sell it at my local grocery store, and we ask for it unsliced so we can cut it into big, thick slices at home instead of their thin slices. If you can't find Challah, brioche is the next best thing, and day-old plain white bread can suffice as well. Again, make sure you slice it yourself or ask for thick slices because that's the only way to get a crispy exterior while retaining a soft, custardy interior. Thin slices will end up with the texture of soggy toast, and the beauty of French toast is the creamy center.

The bread gets soaked in a lovely vanilla custard, which consists of milk, eggs, vanilla, and a hint of nutmeg. You can add vanilla bean for more flavor, and you can also add a bit of sugar depending on how sweet your toppings are. Here, we're using marshmallows and chocolate, so I don't think it needs any extra sweetness. Some people also add cream or half-and-half instead of part/all of the milk for extra decadence, but I'm already consuming enough calories at this brunch so I skipped it.

I know some people like to make this bread pudding style and soak the slices overnight, but then it basically falls apart in the pan when you try to cook it. I've found that it takes less than a minute for the bread to soak up enough custard, though if you have dry, stale bread (not a bad thing here!) it may take a bit longer. You want the custard to reach the center but not soak long enough that the bread starts to come apart.

I fry mine up in a big skillet or on a griddle with a mixture of butter and oil. The butter adds flavor while the oil prevents it from burning since butter burns/browns at much lower temperatures. They only take a few minutes per side to become perfectly golden brown and cooked through. If you're cooking for the masses, you can transfer the cooked French toast to an oven set around 200-250F to keep it warm while you finish up the rest.

While the French toast is cooking, it's time to make the s'mores topping. I use the same technique as I did for my actual s'mores to toast the marshmallows: broiling in the oven. Although I did get a kitchen torch for Hannukah this year, not everyone has one and I've found broiling in the oven on the top rack gets your marshmallows toasty brown and gooey. They go fast, though, so make sure you keep an eye on them. I transfer the toasted marshmallows to the French toast, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips (or a quick spread of Nutella), and promptly eat 8 slices (after sharing with my mom, of course). For some true s'mores action, you can also crust the French toast in graham cracker crumbs before frying (the custard will make the crumbs adhere). It's so good you won't even need maple syrup, and your mom will forgive you for however many hours of labor you put her through (sorry Mom!).

2 Cups Milk
5 Eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 Loaf Challah
Chocolate Chips

Whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla, and nutmeg together. Slice the bread into 3/4" thick slices.

Heat some butter and/or oil in a frypan or griddle over medium heat. Dip the bread in the batter and let soak for a few seconds until mostly saturated. Transfer to the pan and cook until brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Toast the marshmallows on a baking sheet under a broiler or using a kitchen torch. Transfer to the toast and sprinkle with chocolate. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

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