Perfect French Toast

Wow! What a year it has been. It’s hard to believe it’s been over 10 months since I last posted. Here’s the obligatory explanation and apology, before we get into the meat of the post:

As you may have read somewhere in my About, my profession is a professional wedding photographer. I own my company, and I have been growing exponentially. (Yay!) I also made the decision to go back to school for my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and that started up last January (2014). Both of those things by themselves are big time commitments. Both of those things TOGETHER took up nearly all of my free time while I adjusted to dealing with the two coinciding. I let Sweet, Spicy, and Neat tragically fall by the wayside as I determined how to allot my time and remain successful, and for that I deeply apologize.

With that being said, I can’t promise updates as frequently as I was once posting them. However, this little blog was a great source of happiness for me, and I loved reading comments from people who were excited to try the recipes! I will be doing my best to pick it back up with a moderate amount of frequency. You may have to bear with me for a while as I get back into the swing of things, but the best way to encourage continued updates is to FOLLOW and COMMENT and LIKE! šŸ™‚

And now, onto the real reason you’re here!


Folks, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s only a WEEK away! Hopefully you already have your evening plans set in stone with your Valentine, but I’m hoping this post might give you an idea toĀ start that romantic day a little bit earlier! (Hint: No woman ever turned down breakfast in bed…)

Of course, this little gem is good for more than Valentine’s Day. It was written partly out of my sheer exasperation at the plethora of sad, flimsy, flavorless, and otherwise pathetic versions of French Toast I’ve had the misfortune to be exposed to throughout my adult life. Now, I get it.Ā Kids don’t care. Give ’em good ol’ Wonder Bread dipped in eggs and milk, and to them, that’s the breakfast of the gods. My four year old cousin will easily 4 pieces of that all by himself. But we’re all adults here. And darn it, it’s time for some decent, ADULT French Toast.

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Now, don’t be intimidated. It’s really not hard. It’s just that the devil is in the details here. French toast is a really basic staple breakfast dish. And it’s time we stop insulting it and start giving it the reverence it deserves.

The first step in your journey to French toast nirvana is ditching the Wonder Bread. It practically dissolves in your mouth. It just doesn’t have the stability and stamina to stand up to truly good French toast. Instead, grab yourself a loaf of unsliced Italian bread. You know, the kind your grocery store makes every morningĀ in their bakery.Ā Little tip: usually, a loaf of bread from your grocery store’s bakery is far cheaper than your favorite sliced loaf from the big companies.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Make your slices about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, and cut the bread with a long serrated knife.

Since I’m gearing this for Valentine’s Day, this recipe will be set for two people, but it’s very easy to double to make more, if needed. So, cut 4 slices of bread and set them aside. Then, in a shallow dish, whisk up your egg batter.

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This batter is everything. This is a huge part of what makes this French toast so good. Whisk together 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and a shot of spiced rum.

Yes, rum. It’s distilled from sugar cane, and then aged and spiced. What part of that DOESN’T sound like it belongs in French Toast?? Bacardi Gold or Captain Morgan are my favorites, but you can use whatever spiced rum you prefer.

So, once your eggs are all broken up and it’s looking pretty consistent (see photo), it’s time to start cooking! Put a griddle pan over medium low heat and melt a 1/2 tablespoon of butter on the pan. Yep, we’re using good old butter. No canola oil or cooking spray here! It’s all about FLAVOR.

Once the pan is heated, soak each piece of bread one at a time in the egg mixture, making sure to let each side really soak up the egg. (Read: don’t just dip it in and move on! Take your time with it. If you get to the end of your four pieces and you still have a lot of egg left, you did it wrong.) Lay each piece in the pan, spacing them accordingly. Now, here’s the really sweet part of the deal: liberally sprinkle the top side of each piece with cinnamon sugar, while the egg is still wet.

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For those of you doubters wondering why there was no cinnamon in the egg batter… this is why. If you put cinnamon loose in the egg mixture, it all floats on top. Consequently, your first piece of French toast is nice and cinnamon-y, and your last piece gets totally shafted. Not so nice!

Since your pan is on a nice medium low, they should cook nice and evenly. Let them stay on the first side for 3-5 minutes, and then flip them over.

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They should be a nice golden brown! Now, here’s where the magic happens. Once you flip them over, that cinnamon sugar caramelizes with the butter on the hot pan and fuses into the egg. Let them cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove them from the heat and serve them cinnamon side up!Ā If you’re feeling really fancy, slice up a large banana and cover the toast in bananas before drizzling with syrup and sprinkling with powdered sugar.

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There you have it, folks. Doesn’t get any better than that for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast! Also, just a disclaimer: I know IĀ sometimes talk about healthy ways to eat, and I’ve even done some posts where I post nutrition info. However, there are some things in life that just shouldn’t be messed with, unhealthy as they are. French toast is carbs dipped in cholesterol and fat… let’s just let it do its thing, and not try and slim it down!

Full recipe:

Perfect French Toast

Yield: 2 servings (4 pieces)

Total time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

Four 1-inch slices good Italian bread
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 shot spiced rum
1/2 tablespoon butter
Cinnamon sugar, to taste
1 large banana, sliced into 1/4 inch coins (optional)
Maple syrup and powdered sugar, for serving.

Process:

1) Whisk up eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and rum in a shallow bowl until eggs are well beaten.

2) Melt butter on a griddle over medium low heat. Soak both sides of each piece of bread in the egg mixture and lay on the heated pan.

3) Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of each piece while the egg is still wet. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

4) Serve cinnamon side up and top with banana, syrup, and powdered sugar. Enjoy immediately. šŸ™‚

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Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Okay, so I’m kind of on an apple kick here lately, but I think I’m moving on to something else after this one! Apples are just so versatile and definitely one of my favorite fruits, so I just always have some on hand.

If you’re looking for something a little different and wonderfully delicious for breakfast this weekend, look no farther. These pancakes are absolutely divine and way better than the traditional, boring ones you’d make with (horror of horrors) the pre-made just-add-water-and/or-eggs-and-milk mixes.

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That’s right, these are made totally from scratch. No mystery white flour-like substance full of who knows what in these. More than likely, you have everything you need right in your house already. If not, it’s all just a quick trip to the grocery store away. This recipe makes about 6 pancakes, but it’s very easy to double or triple if you’re serving more people!

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Pancakes sit in this wonderful hybrid area between “baking” and “cooking,” but they start off like most other baking recipes: mix the dry ingredients first, and then add the wet.

So, in a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Dry Ingredients

To this, add your first wet ingredients: a scant 1/2 cup of milk and 1 egg. Whisk to combine.

Wet ingredients

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Don’t over-whisk! The key to light, melt-in-your-mouth pancakes is to not beat the mix to death. Whisk it until your ingredients are just combined, and then STOP!

Now comes the flavor ingredients: 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup apple butter (or apple sauce, but I prefer the denser, sweeter flavor of apple butter; if you’re using apple sauce, you may need to add more of it to give a comparable flavor), 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Again, whisk until just combined.

Flavor Ingredients

** For those who are unfamiliar with apple butter, it’s sort of like a very fine, sweet apple jelly. It’s called apple “butter” because there’s no chunks of fruit in it like there is in jelly. Imagine a really finely processed apple sauce, with more flavor and sweetness. It’s dark brown, unlike the golden color of apple sauce.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and melt about a tablespoon of butter on it. Not only does the butter help the pancakes not to stick, it also adds a flavor element.

Butter

Use a spatula to ensure the entire cooking surface is covered in butter, and then pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the skillet. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan – you don’t want the pancakes touching each other.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Wait until the pancakes are bubbling and there is a darker edge around the pancakes before attempting to flip them. Trust me, they aren’t ready to be flipped until there’s bubbles. I promise.

Bubbles

It’s usually a couple of minutes for the first side and only about a minute or so for the other side. You should never have to flip them more than once! They will be a little darker than what you’re probably used to seeing, simply because the batter is darker due to the apple butter.

Once they’re done, stack them up on a plate and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sugar! Top with your favorite pancake syrup.

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I also tried these topped with banana slices and powdered sugar – hoo boy was that delicious, too! But the apple slices complement it best, I think. The crispness and tartness of the apples gives a nice balance to the sweet pancakes.

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I also have a great banana pancake variation – perhaps I’ll tweak that a little and post it someday soon. šŸ˜‰

Full Recipe:

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Yield: About 6 Pancakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Scant 1/2 cup milk
1 egg

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp butter

Apple slices and cinnamon sugar, for garnish.

Process:

1) Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl.

2) Whisk in milk and 1 egg until just combined.

3) Whisk in sugar, apple butter, vanilla, and cinnamon until just combined.

4) Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter on it, ensuring entire skillet is covered.

5) Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until pancakes are bubbling and the edges are darkening, then flip. Cook 1 additional minute after flipping, or until pancakes are cooked through.

6) Remove from heat, garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sugar, and serve!