Indulgence doesn't always need an occasion. Leftover challah and a good appetite are reason enough to enjoy this "special" breakfast. I guarantee you, though -- it's a real treat.
It was Sunday morning; I had a big mug full of Peet's coffee and two newspapers to read. I had a book full of coupons to clip, Meet the Press to watch, and four slices of leftover challah just getting stale.
me: "There's all this challah...would it be alright if I made french toast tomorrow?"
(I don't know why I bothered to ask.)
D: "umm, well....fine. Twist my arm."
It doesn't take much to get me into the kitchen. Just say the magic words and I'll happily drop everything to cook. (a case in point: Sunday afternoon, my mom made etrog marmalade. That's a once-a-year event, people! Everything else just had to wait. I'll post pictures and recipes another day.) Within moments, I was at the kitchen counter, my second home. My french toast recipe is relatively unfussy, but it being Sunday, I cranked the fuss up a notch with some strawberry sauce and whipped cream. Now I know strawberries and whipped cream and french toast don't sound like an everyday thing -- and they're not, in my world -- but that doesn't mean that they're not the perfect breakfast for a random Sunday morning. If you make 'em, I'm confident that you'll agree.
Challah French Toast with Whipped Cream and Strawberry Sauce
6 3/4-inch-wide slices of challah, slightly stale
1/2 cup milk
a dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sugar, optional
1. Let the challah slices stale a bit on both sides; this will give your french toast a custardy texture, since the challah will be dryer and have more capacity to soak up the egg mixture.
2. Mix all the other ingredients in a shallow pan or bowl. Start by whisking the eggs a bit, then add the milk, and then add everything else.
3. It's time to soak your bread. The idea is to soak them for just long enough that they sop up all the delicious liquid, but not long enough that they get soggy. Sop, not sog. I leave each side in the mixture for 30 seconds, and then let the slices drain a bit over the bowl before putting them in the frying pan.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put a heavy saucepan or omelet pan (I use my trusty castiron pan) on low-medium heat. Drop a pad of butter into the pan. (Yes, that's right, I said butter!! this recipe doesn't tolerate any of that smart balance or Pam stuff you have lying around.) Watch that wonderful fat sizzle away.
5. Lay your french toast slices down into the butter without crowding them -- one or two per cycle maximum. Let them fry until each side is golden, about 2 minutes each on my stove. Transfer the fried slices to the oven to cook the rest of the way through.
6. By the time all your slices are fried and in the oven, the first slices should be ready to plate.
12 Strawberries, stems removed and sliced
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brandy
Toss all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat, and let them boil down about 10 minutes, until syrupy.
Whip 1/2 cup whipping cream with an electric or stand mixer until stiff.
Plate two pieces of french toast, a hefty dollop of whipped cream, and a ladleful of strawberry sauce....