Crème Brûlée French Toast
As August and summer inevitably draw to a sweltering hot end and my last semester in college resumes lethargically, I can’t help but wonder, ‘what’s for breakfast?’
It’s the timeless and unwaning question that immediately enters my mind upon waking and sits there until happily answered Monday through Friday (or whichever days I am – *eh hem* – required to be present and awake behind a desk in a less-than-comfortable classroom). In the past, this question would sometimes be answered by melodious noises and heavenly aromas elicited by my mom in the kitchen. Other times, this question would be answered as early as the night before consequent to my excited and persistent chirping to have something to dream about and look forward to come morning. Breakfast is one meal I can have at any given hour of the day and if you couldn’t tell, it happens to be my favorite kind of fare. From veggie-stuffed omelets to pastries and bacon to Crème Brûlée French Toast, hey, what’s not to love?!
Growing up, my Korean family adopted a very Americanized/Westernized-style of breakfast that consisted of variations of eggs, potatoes, meats, and bread in lieu of the perhaps more traditional soup, rice, and side dishes. Most likely for the sake of convenience, most Koreans have done the same when it comes to this essential meal. And in my opinion, with an endless and irresistible array of sweet-and-savory combinations that the quintessential American breakfast has to offer, you’d be crazy not to be enamored. Not to mention, this one is an ingenious marriage of a favorite dessert and breakfast food that tastes nothing short of amazing with a side of bacon.
Crème Brûlée French Toasts
Adapted just barely from Smitten Kitchen
1 loaf unsliced white bread, brioche or rich bread of your choice
1 1/3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur or 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Cut bread into 1 1/2-inch thick, generous slices; a 9-inch loaf should yield 6 slices. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar, salt, liqueur, and vanilla extract, if using. If using a vanilla bean, halve it lengthwise and scrape the pulp into a small dish. Whisk vanilla bean with one tablespoon of custard, then whisk in another and a third tablespoon, then pour the vanilla bean-custard mixture back into the main batter. This avoids having vanilla bean clumps that don’t disperse in your batter. Don’t you hate that?
Preheat oven to 325. Arrange bread slices on the smallest rimmed tray that will fit them in one layer (encourages maximum absorption) pour custard over slices. Allow them to absorb the custard for 30 minutes, turning the slices over at one point to ensure they’re soaking it up evenly.
[Do ahead: You can also soak them overnight in the fridge. No need to flip them if so.]
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer custard-soaked slices to prepared sheet, arranging them with a smidge of space between each to avoid making one French mega-toast. Flipping them halfway through if you wish, bake French toast slices for 30 to 35 minutes, until a slim knife inserted into the center of a slice and twisted ever-so-slightly does not release any wet custard. Keep warm until ready to serve.
To caramelize the tops:
Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and let the broiler do the torching for you.