I wasn’t originally planning to write about this recipe at all. It was simply a fun idea Chels had seen on Pinterest, and it seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day morning. I had planned to make a few minor adjustments (add some nutmeg and some cinnamon, for example – maybe even a little orange zest), see if I could imitate the plating method in the photograph, and serve with goblets of Strawberry C Monster (it doesn’t sound elegant, but it looks and tastes amazing).
However, as I dug into the admittedly simple recipe, I was intrigued by a number of ideas that were different from the way I normally prepare French toast. If you follow Catz, you know that I make French toast often, in a variety of ways. I really felt like I had the whole French toast thing down pretty pat. If I was going to pick up any new tips, I most definitely did not expect to find them in a “corporate” recipe like this one (the pin was from the official Land O Lakes website). Nevertheless, four things caught my attention.
First, the idea of using Italian bread for French toast had never occurred to me. The obvious cultural cross-pollination issues aside, Italian bread is general sliced thinner than French, has less body, and a thinner crust. It is wonderful and delicious, and I use it in many, many applications (panino, the occasional light baked bruschetta, gourmet grilled cheese, etc), but it simply seemed ill-suited to French toast. However, I took the plunge based on Land O Lakes recommendation, and the result was spectacular! The cooking time is shortened dramatically (because the bread is so porous and airy) to only a moment or two per side, and the finished product is light and buttery – not filling, but incredibly yummy.
Second, how did I not think of putting my French toast dipping mixture in a pie plate before now? It makes so much sense! Mix it in a bowl or large measuring cup, and then transfer to a pie plate for dipping! The pie plate is shallow and wide, allowing you to soak up every last bit of the mixture without bending or mutilating your bread in any way.
Third, I have always transferred my dipped French toast directly from the bowl to the pan. In this recipe, Land O Lakes recommends allowing the dipped bread to rest for a couple of moments before placing it in the pan. I scratched my head for a moment, trying to understand the reason for this. After eating the toasts, however, I realized that the moment of rest, in much the same way it does for a steak, allows the mixture to permeate the bread completely before it begins to cook.
Lastly, and most brilliantly, the Land O Lakes recipe recommends wiping out the pan with a paper towel between cooking sets. Perhaps this is common knowledge among makers of French toast somewhere, but in the 15 or so years I have been cooking it, I have never heard this tip. What does it do exactly? It removes the burned butter! Each set of toasts is cooked in fresh butter, without the dark, burned pieces that normally become progressively invasive with each new set. In my personal experience, each set of French toast would cook and/or burn faster than the last, with the first set always being the best. Using this method, the last set actually was the lightest and tastiest!
So, I stand totally and utterly corrected. Not only was this recipe incredibly tasty and fun to make, it was a great learning experience in an area I already considered myself decently proficient. The recipe follows; try it this weekend!
Italian Bread French Toast with Strawberry Butter
Sourced from Land O Lakes
Using heart-shaped cookie cutters makes this a wonderful Valentine’s morning recipe, but substituting shamrocks would make it equally as appropriate for St. Patrick’s day! There is a lot of leftover bread when you’re done with the cutouts, so do what we did – go feed the ducks!
Servings: makes about 20 toasts
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp strawberry preserves
1 loaf Italian bread, about 20 slices
2/3 cup half and half
2 tsp vanilla
butter for the pan
- Add butter, powdered sugar, and strawberry preserves to a medium size bowl and beat until creamy. You may wish to double this portion of the recipe and save some for later, as more ingredients will make it easier to beat properly. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
- Use a cookie cutter in any shape you like to cut out pieces of bread from the Italian bread slices. Most loaves will only give you a single cutout per slice, but if you can get two, you will only need half a loaf. Omit any crust.
- Beat eggs, half and half, and vanilla in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, and then pour into a 9-inch pie plate. Dip four or five of the cutouts in the mixture, turn to coat, and let rest on a large plate for one to two minutes.
- Bring a large frying pan or griddle to medium heat, and add one to two tablespoons of butter. When butter is melted, add cutouts to pan and cook one to two minutes per side, or until golden brown. Serve immediately, or keep warm in an oven on its lowest heat setting (normally 170 to 200 degrees).
- Repeat with remaining cutouts. To serve, sprinkle generously with additional powdered sugar, and top with strawberry butter. Garnish with fresh strawberries (or other fresh fruit).