Crunchy on the outside, soft and custardy on the inside, these thick slices taste like the perfect union of bread pudding and French toast. Instead of the usual brioche or challah, this recipe calls for a sturdier bread, preferably a not-too-tangy sourdough or country bread with a crust that’s neither chewy nor thick. Follow the clever trick of dropping the bread into a zip-top bag with the custard, so you can flip the whole thing occasionally for mess-free, even soaking.
Caramelized french toast
• 3 large eggs
• 1 large egg yolk
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• Pinch of kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
• A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon orange or grapefruit liqueur (optional)
• 2 (2-inch-thick) slices sourdough or country bread, halved
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Maple syrup and berries, for serving
The day before serving, in a medium bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, milk, cream, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, 2 tablespoons sugar and the liqueur, if using.
Whisk well until thoroughly combined.
Place the bread in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag or shallow dish that will fit the slices snugly. Pour the egg mixture into the bag or dish to soak in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. If in a bag, lay on a plate and turn the bag over from time to time. If in a dish, cover and flip the slices carefully now and then to ensure even soaking.
When ready to cook, heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove the slices from the bag or dish, letting any excess drip off, and place on a plate. Coat the bread evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
Heat a sheet pan or large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Spread it around and add the sugar-coated bread, spacing evenly. Reduce heat to 400 degrees. Cook until the bottoms are evenly burnished and golden brown, 14-18 minutes.
Flip the bread and add the remaining tablespoon butter in slivers around the slices. Cook until the bottoms are nicely browned, 7-8 minutes. Turn the slices on the cut ends to caramelize, 4-5 minutes. Serve immediately with the syrup and berries.
Total time: 40 minutes, plus overnight soaking; serves 4.
It’s easy to caramelize the French toast in the oven, but the timing depends on your oven and pan, so check it frequently to ensure that it’s not burned.
To make a simple berry compote topping, heat blueberries in maple syrup until warm and nearly bursting. Remove from the heat and fold in raspberries.