Perfect French Toast Bread + A Birthday Brunch

The other day, I had coffee with one of my English professors and when I told her that I have a food blog, she went, “So you must be a really good cook, then!”

The reality is that I often don’t feel like a good cook or baker at all. I would frankly be embarrassed to have anyone over for dinner who had an expectation of me as a really good cook. I’ve pulled too many mangled, healthified recipes out of my oven to think of myself as a “really good baker.” My cooking and baking styles are constantly evolving–lately it’s been tipping from Super Healthy into Unabashedly Decadent and I haven’t quite decided where to settle.

Take the bread below: I was supposed to save half the cinnamon sugar sprinkle for the top of the bread. Not only did I forget that, but I forgot the egg wash until it was 2 minutes into the oven. (I grabbed it, dumped some egg wash on top, and in a brainless frenzy, thought I was making this recipe and dumped sesame seeds on top).

I don’t even have a signature recipe! Except maybe banana bread. But I’ve even managed to screw up that a couple times–too much flaxseed or applesauce, too few bananas, too little oil.

Tell me about your signature recipes! Do you have any?

But if there’s any time in life to get something right, your boyfriend’s birthday would be a good day. And so the stars aligned on Monday (hello, best day off ever) and for Erik’s birthday brunch, I ended up making what I think was one of the best things ever I ever made.

After scouring the internet for “best french toast recipes,” (his favorite), I found Erica of Cannella Vita‘s crispy cinnamon toast crunch french toast and knew I had a hands-down winner.

Let’s talk french toast for a second. I almost always prefer sweet over savory breakfasts, but even though pancakes and french toast both fall in the sweet category, I find them vastly different. I’m all about sweet, syrupy fluffy carbs and what about fried bread doesn’t sound amazing? Nothing, that’s what. But somehow, egg-sodden slices of bland-ishly sweet bread fried to a crackly egg-edged crisp on the outside and mush on the inside doesn’t usually fall into my crave-worthy category.

This french toast, however, is all about the honey and buttered cinnamon sugar brioche dough sitting pretty in a flour, egg and milk soak until damp, dripping all the way to the sizzling hot pan gilded with a drip of oil.

It’s not a spoil of riches, the way banana bread french toast can be almost too much of a good thing. It’s not quite as heavy as pancake-battered french toast, although it does borrow the flour-in-the-batter component. It’s moist but not soggy, sweet but not overly so, and decadent to the max. Erik declared it among the best…and he’s eaten a lot of french toast. Far more than I have, though I plan to catch up.

He might kill me, but I just had to get one shot in–he was so happy!

This french toast has made me a convert. Feel free to call me French Toast Princess.

Notes

I combined a bunch of recipes to make this: Erica’s cinnamon sugar brioche, this french toast batter and Erica’s olive oil technique for french toast.

Erica’s picture of her brioche never fails to make my mouth water. My brioche is slightly more unsightly because it didn’t rise all that much (thanks, yeast), but it was still delicious and not brick-like the way some of my yeasty fails have turned out. I think that is the sign of a winning recipe, no?

The original recipe makes 4 loaves but I only made one since I was only making brunch for two. If I had more room in my fridge/freezer, I definitely would have doubled the recipe because this is a time-intensive recipe. But sooooo worth it. I think the sesame seeds on top added a very subtle nutty kick that I liked, but I’m sure cinnamon sugar on top is definitely a good way to go.

I recommend making the brioche 1-2 days in advance for optimal french toast. I left mine in the pan, tightly covered in the fridge for two days before using. Sliiightly stale is somehow better.

Brioche dough (makes 1 loaf)
Adapted from Canella Vita

Yield: 1 loaf (easily doubled)

Time: ~6 hours, mostly rising time (time is bolded)

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • generous 1/3 tablespoon granulated yeast (1/2 packet)
  • 1/4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1) Combine the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a medium bowl, or lidded (but not airtight) food container. I did this by hand.

2) Mix in the flour until entirely incorporated.

3) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.

4) Chill dough in the fridge in a lidded container for at least one hour. This dough would be too sticky too handle if you skipped the chilling–you can use it as soon as it’s done!

Cinnamon Swirl:

  • chilled brioche dough
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • egg wash (one egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

1) Form the chilled dough into a smooth ball. Roll the dough into an approximate rectangular shape about 1/8″ thick.

2) Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough (alternatively, sprinkle ALL the cinnamon sugar on here, and add sesame seeds on top after the egg wash).

3) Starting at one short end of the rectangle, roll the dough as though you would a cinnamon roll. Once it’s rolled up into a tube, pinch the seam shut and tuck the ends under as needed to fit into your loaf pan. Place in a well-greased loaf pan and allow to rest for about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Paint the risen dough with egg wash and dust with remaining cinnamon sugar before baking. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove the bread to finish cooling.

Cinnamon French Toast
From allrecipes with the olive oil technique reinforced by Erica

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • Olive or canola oil for frying (I probably used about 1 tablespoon total, 1 teaspoon at a time)
  • 1 loaf cinnamon swirl brioche bread, sliced

1) Measure flour into a large, preferably shallow bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth. (Do NOT combine everything all at once–you’ll end up with lumps of flour in your batter)

2) Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat for at least three minutes before frying.

3) Soak bread slices in egg mixture for a minute or two on each side. They should feel heavy and fully saturated, but should not fall apart. Cook bread on each side until golden brown, about two minutes per side. Serve hot.

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29 thoughts on “Perfect French Toast Bread + A Birthday Brunch

  1. Erica

    I can’t believe I never saw this post until now! Thank you so much for trying my recipe out! Erik looks so happy! :) Your French toast looks beautiful!

    Reply
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  4. The Healthy Flavor

    That picture is priceless of your boyfriend! All the steps that you took for that French toast, wow! It looks out of this world! Do you know that I’ve never eaten French toast…I’m real weird about soggy things..bread pudding, cream brûlée, etc. and I’ve always thought french toast would be soggy but yours looks crispy and amazing :)

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Aww thanks! Haha when he first saw the photo, I think he was a bit speechless :3

      Omg! How have you gotten by without eating French toast?? Hmm I can definitely understand the soggy avoidance factor (but I still love creme brulee! haha.)…I will tell you that this IS a tiny bit squishy in the middle, but the outsides do crisp up wonderfully–the flour gives it a bit of an oomph! I would def recommend this for a first foray into French toast :)

      Thanks for dropping by! :)

      Reply
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  9. MonkeyBreadandSweetPea

    People always ask my what my signature dish is since I went to culinary school and worked in catering for a few years. I feel like I’m always experimenting & trying out new recipes – but there are a few things I make often, I guess. Like you, banana bread is made very often. And like you, sometimes it is perfect and other times not so much. And soups. I love making soup!! But neither are very exciting when I tell people those are my favs to make. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    1. ekwee Post author

      Ooh, culinary school and catering sound so fun! And glamorous :)

      And I was JUST thinking the other day that I want to make more soup! But I’ve never really made a summery soup and I was thinking that I’d just have to wait until it cools down to make some of the hearty vegetable/chili recipes that I love. Do you have any favorites you’d recommend? Thanks for the comment! :)

      Reply
  10. Erica

    You have no idea how happy I am to see that my French toast recipe came through for such a special occasion! I am so honored to have it featured on your blog — and that picture of him makes me smile! Thank you so much! I am glad you liked it! (I will have to try merging the cinnamon toast crunch french toast and the olive oil technique myself sometime…)

    Reply
    1. ekwee Post author

      Yay! I’m happy this makes you happy because I was SO relieved that it came out well for his birthday! He was very very pleased :) And supports more of your recipes in the future :)

      Reply
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  12. Bailey Bakes

    Hello French Toast Princess! lol. Believe it or not, I’ve never made French toast!! Crazy, I know. When I do though, oh and I certainly will, I’ll try this!

    My “signature dish” would have to be The Grape Thing. As you’ve seen from my post, my family goes coo-coo over it!!

    Reply
    1. ekwee Post author

      I DO find that really hard to believe! It’s soooo easy! (At least bad french toast can be really really easy lol.) But yes, please try this! It will be an amazing introduction to making french toast!

      Mm that Grape Thing. I will have to eat it to believe it! Have you ever tried roasting grapes before? I saw a really cool-looking roasted grape focaccia once–somehow grapes are not usually on my list of baking supplies but I might have to try more with them…

      Reply
      1. Bailey Bakes

        I haven’t tried roasting grapes before, but now you’ve got me thinking… I am going to attempt to make a cheesecake version of the Grape Thing tomorrow. Wonder if I should try roasting the grapes for it?? Good idea!

        Reply
  13. gottagetbaked

    I love brioche and have yet to work up the courage to attempt it myself. I also love french toast and yours looks wonderful! I actually like to eat french toast and pancakes plain, without any of the fixings just cause I think they have a wonderful flavour all on their own. And I’m constantly messing up in the kitchen so I can totally relate to this post :)

    Reply
    1. ekwee Post author

      I agree, I don’t even have syrup in the house even though I make pancakes so often because I like them plain (or with peanut butter/PB&J if I’m feeling decadent)!

      Despite whatever mess ups you may have had in the kitchen, you’ve definitely turned out some awesome, amazing things! (read: this six layer cake post that I’m about to read!

      Reply
  14. Choc Chip Uru

    Aaaah I think your boyfriend must have been over the moon with this breakfast – I want to take a bite out of my screen 😛
    It is so perfectly made! 😀
    I am loving your blog!!!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    P.S Did you know your bf kinda looks like Andrew Garfield… with glasses?! 😛

    Reply
    1. ekwee Post author

      Haha thank you so much!! Lol my boyfriend googled Andrew Garfield, frowned, and said, “He looks like a nerd.” But I think he’s a cute nerd! They wouldn’t cast someone not cute for the lead of spiderman, right? Thanks so much for your comments :) I look forward to reading more on your blog!

      Reply

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