Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stuffed Crème Anglaise French Toast

A good cookbook is a beautiful thing. One that is not a brick, that can easily be picked up and held close, with good crisp pages that are easy to turn, that is spectacular. One with a good table of recipes and an index of ingredients is a recipe-searchers dream. The best part about a cookbook, are the pictures.

The more pictures a book contains the more likely I am to purchase it. This is one reason I always post pictures about my recipes. I more often desire to try a recipe that is buddy to a picture than one that lacks a few good beauty shots. So it was upon a recent trip to the local B&N that I wandered to the food section and within seconds my eyes fell upon a very clean looking book with a delicious potato latke, smoked salmon egg benedict pictured, holding a simple title: Brunch .

Brunch is that fabulous meal everyone loves. It means one is at their leisure with the day and can rise late, mull about, then fix a casual and delicious spread. It reminds me of summer weekends when all of New York seems to be meeting up with friends and dining outside. My problem with brunch is I often feel at a loss for new ideas. How many ways can eggs, french toast or pancakes be glitzed up before we realize it really is just the same old meal with a different topping? So it was with hope that I cradled the book in my hands and retired to the second floor to find a good chair to park myself in.

Of course with the intent to eventually purchase, as I flipped through the pages I realized many of the recipes I was interested in were simple enough to memorize. Not the exact ratios, but many of these recipes called for some leeway in terms of personal taste, or were recipes common enough that I had already made them, with a little bit extra to create something truly special. I was hooked on the book (baked eggs?!) and flipped from page to page soaking up the pictures (which I think actually helps with remembering how to create the final product).

The recipe I saw that really drew my attention was french toast soaked in a crème anglaise batter. This sounded (and looked) fabulous because 1) I had some leftover crème angalise from the very decadent soufflé I made a few days back. And 2) because the secret (other than the rich, creamy, vanilla bean spiked batter to soak the bread in) is that this french toast is stuffed. The picture showed banana stuffed toast, but I had fresh package of blueberries calling my name in the fridge and they would be used instead. The last secret to this french toast is to buy an eggy bread (like challah) that you can slice yourself into thick 2-3 inch chunks.

Serves 2. Prep + Cook time= 15 minutes.
* 4 thick (2-3 inches) slices of good egg-based bread, ends removed
* crème anglaise sauce (recipe below)
* ¼ cup fresh blueberries, slightly mashed with fork (or other fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries, etc)
* 1 Tbl butter

1) Cut the ends off the bread. Carefully with a knife, slice a small pocket in one end of the bread (keeping a few centimeters away from the edges).
2) Using a spoon or fork, carefully stuff the mashed blueberries into the bread. Dunk the bread into the crème anglaise making sure the bread readily absorbs the crème.
3) Place the soaked bread in a warm skillet on medium-low heat with the butter melted. Cook on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Makes about 4 servings. Prep time= 10 minutes. Inactive time= up to 2 hours.
* 2 cups half-and-half
* 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
* 5 large egg yolks
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon dark rum, or to taste

1) In a small saucepan bring half-and-half just to a boil with vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. Scrape seeds from bean with a knife into half-and-half, reserving pod for another use if desired.
2) In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt and whisk in hot half-and-half in a stream. Return custard to pan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened (170°F. on a candy or digital thermometer), do not let boil. Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally. Stir in rum. Chill sauce, covered, until very cold, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

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