Monday, October 14, 2013

Vanilla Almond French Toast with Salted Caramel Sauce

Pancakes have been a long running favorite in our house, so much so that the little one didn't even know what french toast was... yet. She has had a serious yen for toast ever since her first bite, so it didn't take much convincing to get her to try this. Especially with it being made with her bread of choice: brioche. 

The salted caramel sauce puts this 'dessert for breakfast' over the top, with its thick and rich gooey-ness running down the edges of the crisp-almondy-exterior, warm-vanilla-custardy-interior goodness. 
I'd been looking for a use of almond flour that didn't dominate a recipe, since it is so caloric and high in fat. Granted, there are some great health benefits there, but not enough to excuse my guilt for using 2+ cups in a cookie recipe. And yes, brioche french toast isn't exactly nutritious or kind on the hips, but hey, I had to start somewhere.  Almond flour is however, a perfect coating for french toast, and who doesn't love the combination of vanilla and almond?

This is not something you enjoy everyday, which makes it a perfect choice for a weekend breakfast/brunch for a crowd of special people. The salted caramel sauce can be made up to several days ahead, leaving you to focus on the main preparation. It does help to plan ahead and get some brioche a few days before you make this dish, enhancing the bread's ability to soak up all that delicious eggy vanilla custard and prevent the inside from being too squidgy. You want a custardy interior, not wet and mushy. 


8 1 inch thick slices 3 day old 
7 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half or whole 
2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
pinch of kosher salt
1 heaping cup almond flour, plus 
   ~1/2 cup more if needed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

for the salted caramel sauce

5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup superfine sugar aka 
   bakers sugar
3 Tbsp golden syrup, or light corn 
   syrup if in a pinch
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp very good vanilla
1 tsp fleur de sel, or maldon salt,
   or Portuguese 'Salt Cream' sea salt

In a small sauce pan, add all the caramel sauce ingredients except for the salt, cream and vanilla, then place over medium heat. Give a little smoosh to the sugars with a wooden spoon to help combine them, then don't touch! 

Let the mixture come to a vigorous simmer and set a timer for 3 minutes. Feel free to swirl the caramel a few times as it bubbles away. Add the cream and salt and let simmer for 1 more minute - no more, no less. Remove from heat and add the vanilla, stirring into the caramel with wooden spoon. 

The sauce will have a pretty thin consistency at this point, which is fine - don't panic! Let the sauce cool for 10 minutes and empty into a glass vessel that has a spout for easy pourability. Let the sauce cool for about 30 minutes till it becomes nice and thick, but still warm enough to top your french toast. You can also make this several days in advance, just heat it up in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring well at the end of each zap, till it comes up to desired temp.

Place the eggs, milk or half and half, vanilla and salt into a glass pie plate or other deep, flat bottomed dish. Whisk till very well combined. In another similar dish, add the almond flour and shake the dish a tad to evenly distribute the flour over the bottom.

Place a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Working with 2 pieces at a time, place one slice of brioche in the custard mixture and let sit for 1 minute on each side. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to the pan. Dredge the first slice into the almond flour on each side while the second is soaking in the custard. Repeat with the second slice. Shake a bit to remove excess and add both to the pan. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, then remove lid. Let cook for another minute or so, or till the first side is golden brown. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Continue with the remaining brioche. You may need to add a bit more almond flour to the dish to ensure they all get a nice coating, maybe another 1/2 cup or so.

The french toast remains pretty piping hot even after sitting for a good 5 minutes or so, but feel free to keep them warm in a 200* oven while you make up the entire batch.

1 piece is a good serving to start with, especially if you have some fresh fruit to go along with it. 2 per person is what we go with if we're feeling very indulgent. 

Salted Caramel Sauce recipe from Nigella Lawson

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