Saturday, January 22, 2011

Breakfast Magic

I am a profound lover of french toast.  It is my go-to breakfast item when I am making it myself, however I almost never order it at a restaurant.  I hate french toast that is basically sandwich bread, quickly dipped in egg batter and pan fried.  For me, it has to be big, thick slices of bread, with a slightly chewy outer crust, and a custardy, fluffy center.  Yes, I am picky about my french toast.  Don't even get me started about "overnight baked french toast".  That stuff, while good, is not french toast.  That is basically bread pudding that you are serving for breakfast.

A couple of years ago, I started using a french toast recipe from Ina Garten. It is a really good basic recipe, and over time, I morphed it, using different kinds of bread (Hawaiian is my fave, by the way), adding different spices, etc.  During these changes, the favorite that the hubster and I had settled on was Hawaiian bread french toast with pumpkin pie seasoning.  So good.  Definitely worthy of favorite status......

......until today.

Sometimes (okay, often),  as I am lying in bed in pre-sleep, I think about recipes.  I think about ways to make things taste the way I want.  Sometimes (okay, also often), these ideas are either never used, or they just don't work they way I think they will in my head.  But this time, this time was different.  MAGICAL.

We had recently gotten, as part of a frequent buyer program, a very large loaf of multi grain bread.  It was unsliced.  Also in the kitchen were three bananas that I deemed too ripe to eat, but wanted to use rather than throwing them in the freezer with their brethren.  The wheels in my head were turning as I lay in bed, and like a flash, I had an idea!  BANANA FRENCH TOAST.  With strawberry sauce.  (and whipped cream for good measure)

This recipe may seem a little bit complicated, but I swear to you it is worth it.  So much banana flavor in the toast.  Like I said, I had the multi grain bread already, but if I had to buy bread for this, I would go with either Hawaiian bread, or something simple, like french bread of challah.  I always get the best results when I slice the bread the night before and let the slices sit out to dry overnight.  That way the bread soaks up more batter and gets fluffier.  So worth it.  If you don't have the bread the night before, you can slice it and dry it out in a warm oven for a little bit before putting it in the batter.  Just make sure you don't toast the bread, or you will have to start over.  Also, the bread that I used was HUGE!  The loaf was easily 8 inches wide, so when I say "5 slices", I'm talking about really big bread.  If your bread is small, this amount of batter will be good for more slices.  I always slice more than I think I will need, just in case.  Besides, you can turn the unused slices into croutons if you want to.

Banana French Toast
Source: ME!!! I made this up myself! 

5 slices of bread, about 3/4 to an inch thick
3 very ripe bananas
1 cup milk (I used 2%, but whole would work too)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a few good grates of fresh nutmeg
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons banana liquor (this is probably optional, but I thought it added nice flavor. But don't go out and buy a bottle of the stuff just for this.)
Butter, for the pan
Strawberry sauce (recipe follows)

Peel the bananas, break them into large chunks, put them in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cut a few slits for ventilation.  Put the bowl in the microwave and cook for about 2 minutes. 

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, microwaved bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the milk comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat, add the vanilla and banana liquor and let it cool for about 15 minutes.  Once cooled, either puree the mixture into a blender or put it in a bowl and use a stick blender to puree the mixture. 

Add the eggs to the milk mixture and either whisk to combine, or use the stick blender again to combine all ingredients.  Pour the mixture into a somewhat shallow dish that is large enough to fit at least one slice of bread (I used a glass 9x9 baking pan, but you could use whatever you want.).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. 

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  While the pan is heating, put a few slices of bread (as many as your dish will hold) into the batter.  Be sure to flip the bread so that both sides get fully coated.  Make sure the bread has a chance to soak up the batter.  Melt butter in the pan (fp note:  i think it has to do with the bananas, but these puppies stuck to the pan if i didn't use a bunch of butter.  keep that in mind.). Once the butter has melted, put the batter-soaked bread in the pan.  Let it cook a few minutes on the first side, until light brown, and then flip it and cook the other side.  Once both sides are cooked, take the toast out of the pan and put it on the foil-lined sheet pan.  Continue with the remaining slices of bread until they have all been cooked.

After cooking, place the toast slices in the preheated oven and cook for 8-12 minutes, until slightly dried, and a little puffy.

Serve with strawberry sauce.  And whipped cream.

Strawberry Sauce

Okay, so there are a few ways  I am going to give you to make strawberry sauce:

1.  Quick and easy: take strawberry jam, put some in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave it for about 30 seconds.  Take it out, stir it up, and drizzle it on the french toast.  This is how I did it, because I had jam, but no other form of strawberries.

2.  More time, not hard:  put some frozen strawberries in a small saucepan and cook it over medium heat until the strawberries melt and make a sauce.  Cook it until the liquid reduces and gets thick.  You can puree it, or mash some of it if you want, or leave the berries somewhat whole.  Adding a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice to this is a really nice touch.

3.  Also quick, but more seasonal:  Take some very ripe fresh strawberries, stick them in a bowl and microwave them.  Smash them up after they are hot.

It doesn't really matter how you get strawberry sauce, as long as you get it.  It is so good with the banana french toast. 

You could also serve the french toast with chocolate sauce, or peanut butter (heated and thinned out), or whatever you like with bananas.  Let your imagination run wild!  

And P.S. - I normally have more time between posts, but I was so excited that I created this on my own and it was sooooo good, I just couldn't wait to share it with you.  That's a little real-time flourpile action for you.  Enjoy!!!

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