The holiday season is coming … may I suggest you treat your family to this delicious cherry french toast recipe and mostly make-ahead-able dish?
One of my favourite parts of the holiday season is when my family is all together and just relaxing and we sit down to a decadent and delicious treat. That said, I like the relaxing part too, so I don’t want to be a slave to the kitchen. This Cherry French Toast fits that bill perfectly – decadent, delicious and mostly make-ahead-able.
I thought I’d share this one early, for those that like to plan ahead for the holidays. If you’re looking for a treat to share with your family, trust me … you won’t regret making this one! Imagine a rich, homemade cherry bread, sandwiched with a vanilla cream (pastry cream lightened up with creme fraiche), cooked up French Toast style and topped with a warm whole cherry sauce. It’s the perfect holiday indulgence :)
The bread that forms the base of this French Toast is a brioche bread, enriched with egg yolks and butter, spiced with a little cinnamon and dotted with chopped cherries. You can make the bread well ahead and freeze, or make it up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate. Be sure to wrap well with plastic wrap then foil. If you’re freezing, simply remove from the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge (wrapped) to thaw overnight.
The cherry syrup and vanilla cream can both be made a day or so ahead and refrigerated. When it comes time to make the French Toast, simply grab all your components out of the fridge and you can be enjoying this French Toast in about 15 minutes. It doesn’t get any better than that!
This recipe make 5 French Toast “sandwiches”, but for smaller appetites, you could easily halve the sandwiches to serve more. For Canadians, President’s Choice has frozen sweet dark cherries easily available in with the frozen fruits and they are delicious!
- For the Cherry Sauce: (can be made ahead)
- 120 gm (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp.) white sugar
- 500 gm (17.5 oz) frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- For the Cherry Bread: (can be made ahead)
- 160 ml (2/3 cup) milk
- 1 1/2 tsp. dry active or instant yeast
- 5 egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 375 gm (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 30 gm (2 Tbsp.) white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 150 gm (2/3 cup) butter, at room temperature
- For brushing:egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp. water)
- For dusting: white or demerara sugar
- For the Vanilla Cream: (can be made ahead)
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy (35%) cream
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
- 1/2 a vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped or 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 3 egg yolks
- 40 gm (5 Tbsp) white sugar
- 25 gm (3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 120 gm (1/2 cup) crème fraîche
- For the French Toast:
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
- 60 gm (5 Tbsp.) butter, for frying
- To make the Cherry Syrup: Sprinkle the sugar over bottom of a large saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the sugar begins to melt (1-2 minutes). Add the thawed cherries, lemon juice and cornstarch and cook, stirring occasionally, until clear and syrupy about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat, remove half the cherries with a slotted spoon and coarsely chop. Set aside chopped cherries for use in the bread. Refrigerate the remaining whole cherries in syrup in an airtight container until required.
- To make the Cherry Bread: Warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm. Combine yeast and half the milk in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to dissolve and stand in a warm place until foamy (8-10 minutes). Whisk remaining milk with yolks in a bowl and set aside.
- Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt to the bowl/mixer with the yeast and milk mixture. Add the yolk mixture and knead on medium speed until a smooth dough forms, about 4-5 minutes. While mixing, gradually add the butter and beat until dough is elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 8-10 minutes (you may need to add a bit more flour). Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Remove dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 15cm x 23cm (6-inch x 9-inch) rectangle and scatter the reserved chopped cherries over the dough. Roll to form a long cylinder, place in a greased 11cm x 24cm (4 x 8-inch) loaf tin. Cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 30-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. (350° F.) Before placing loaf in the oven, Brush with egg wash and sprinkle generously with demerara or white sugar. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. (*Check at about 25 minutes and cover loosely with foil if loaf is browned enough). Allow bread to cool slightly in tin, then remove from pan to cool completely on a wire rack. Cherry loaf can be prepared 2 days ahead and refrigerated or further ahead and frozen. Be sure to wrap well in plastic wrap and then foil. If freezing, thaw in the fridge (wrapped) overnight.
- To Make the Vanilla Cream: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, milk, vanilla bean seeds (or paste) to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Return the cream mixture to medium-high heat and return to just below boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and very slowly (a drop at a time at first), add to the bowl with the yolk/sugar mixture while whisking continuously to combine. Continue until all the milk mixture is added and then return the whole mixture back to the saucepan and over medium heat, whisk continuously until thick (4-6 minutes). Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool for 10-15 minutes, then cover closely with plastic wrap and allow chill completely (30-40 minutes). Fold in the crème fraîche and refrigerate until required.
- To make the French Toast: Place cherry syrup in a saucepan over low heat to warm while you are making the french toast.
- Preheat oven to 150C. (300° F). Cut the cherry loaf into 10 slices. Spread half the slices with 2 Tbsp. of the vanilla cream and top with the other slices of bread, sandwich style. Set aside. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a flat bowl or deep plate to combine. Heat one third of the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Dip both sides of sandwiches in egg mixture, allowing to sit in the egg mixture for a minutes, then shaking off excess, and cook in batches, turning once, until golden, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper and place in oven to keep warm. Wipe pan clean with absorbent paper and repeat with remaining butter and sandwiches.
- Serve hot, drizzled with warm cherries in syrup and pass the remaining vanilla cream.
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Traveller Magazine December 2010