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