Author Notes: Last weekend my husband and I had a delicious brunch of Duck Confit Hash and Rosemary French Toast with Vanilla Crème Fraîche served with maple syrup at the restaurant Accanto. Both dishes were delicious, and I knew I wanted to create my own version of the French toast. The original was made with a chewy crusted Italian bread, and I prefer a soft challah. I also was hoping for a little more rosemary flavor, so I infused the custard with rosemary as well as sprinkled a little atop the finished dish. I favor using a yolk only custard to minimize any “eggy” flavor in the French toast. Here’s what I came up with. Both of us were quite happy to have this as a decadent supper mid-week! —hardlikearmour
Food52 Review: I’ll take any excuse for a decadent mid-week breakfast, especially one that so expertly plays with sweet and savory. The extra step of infusing the rosemary into the milk of the custard was nothing short of genius—every bite delivered that heavenly aroma, rounded out beautifully by the vanilla. The maple syrup facilitated a crunchy, caramel-y exterior, and the crème fraîche offered the perfect cool and creamy counterpoint to the rich toast. One suggestion: I would add a couple egg whites to the custard for some lightness. Even after 10 minutes in the pan, the center was still pretty milky. —lisina
Serves: 4 very generous servings, or 8 "side dish" servings
Loaf challah bread
8 to 9 inch fresh rosemary stem
cup crème fraîche
tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
tablespoons butter, plus additional for frying the toast
cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
teaspoon kosher salt
- The night before, cut the heels off of the challah, then cut the loaf into 8 3/4-inch thick slices. Use the heels and any remaining bread for another purpose. Arrange the bread on a wire rack and leave out overnight to dry out. (If you didn’t plan ahead, don’t fret — you can also dry the bread on a wire rack set over a sheet pan in a 300ºF oven. It will take about 18 minutes, flipping the bread midway. You don’t want it to be dried throughout, the bread should still have a little “give.” Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes before using it.)
- Preheat oven to 200º F. Place a wire rack on a sheet pan, and set it in the oven. Warm 4 large or 8 medium plates in the oven as well if desired. Strip the bottom 3 inches of leaves off the rosemary, and set them aside. Combine the milk, half-and-half, and rosemary stem in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium to 180 to 185ºF, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and use a fork to fish the rosemary out. Add 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces, to the mixture.
- While the butter is melting and the mixture is cooling slightly, combine the crème fraîche and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in a small bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly, then refrigerate until ready to serve. It will thicken slightly as it cools. Finely mince the rosemary, and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and the salt to the milk mixture. Whisk to combine. Add the egg yolks, and whisk again until the mixture is homogenous. Transfer the mixture to a flat 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish.
- Soak half of the bread slices in the custard for 40 to 45 seconds, flipping the slices midway. The bread should be saturated, but not tearing or disintegrating. Remove the bread from the custard using a slotted spatula. Allow excess custard to drain back into the pan, then transfer the soaked slices to a platter or sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining slices. The bread will sop up most if not all of the custard.
- Heat a 10 to 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes. Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 to 2 teaspoons of butter. Once butter has stopped sputtering, add 2 slices of toast. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the wire rack in the oven, and repeat the process until all the toast is cooked.
- While the last 2 pieces are cooking set up your plating station. Arrange your plates in a convenient configuration. Pour about 1 quarter cup of maple syrup into a small pitcher or liquid measure. Place the minced rosemary and crème fraîche in a convenient location.
- Plating the dish: arrange 1 to 2 slices on each plate. Drizzle each serving with maple syrup (about 1/2 tablespoon per slice.) Sprinkle French toast with minced rosemary (you may not use it all.) Top each serving with a dollop of crème fraîche (you should use all of it.)
- Serve immediately, passing additional maple syrup if desired (though it really doesn’t need it.)
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Photo by James Ransom
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