One of my goals for 2011, as I mentioned in the holiday entertaining roundup, was to bake more bread. After making a king cake with a brioche inspired recipe from John Besh, I thought about just focusing on the bread itself. If I wanted to get a loaf of brioche around these parts, I’d most likely would have to head out to La Boulangerie (Tradicion Française) in Condado. I decided on Saturday morning, that I really wanted to make my own brioche. Brioche is the perfect bakery item to work on if you know you’ll be in your house, because it needs a lot of tending to in a space of hours. There’s so much laundry and gardening one can do while waiting for the dough to work its magic within several two hour intervals. I used epicurious.com’s Basic Brioche recipe, and baked it as one loaf instead of the mini brioches they also suggest.
To make a long story short, I started working on my sponge at 9am Saturday and my loaf out by 9:45am this morning. The smell was… for lack of better word, insane. It was like a croissant on steroids from all the butter and eggs. We couldn’t wait any longer than 10 minutes for the loaf to ‘cool down’ before breaking that crusty edge and eating it with a bit of butter.
If I have a breakfast love, out of the universe of treats that can be eaten with maple syrup, it’s French toast. I love playing with different breads and flavor combinations that can be added to the basic egg and milk mixture. To play on the Frenchiness of the bread, I decided to add a bit of orange liqueur (Cointreau) to the mix to evoke the flavors of Crepes Suzette. I regretted so much not buying a single orange at the farmer’s market this morning after my early run! A bit of zest would have elevated this dish very easily.
Brioche French Toast
For each large egg, mix in the following ingredients in a shallow dish to make the batter:
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of orange liqueur (may be substituted for 1/4 teaspoon orange extract)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of sea salt
Soak your bread slices on each side for about twenty seconds. If you are using stale bread or extra thick slices, considering increasing soaking time/amount of batter to make sure the bread absorbs it all the way to the center. Since our brioche was so fresh and tasty on its own, I used two eggs worth of batter. Cook the French toast on a non-stick pan greased with about a teaspoon of butter over medium heat, until golden brown on each side.
The best way I can describe the taste of this French toast is… this is what the mass-produced, meant to be fried French toast sticks wish they could be. The flavor is scarily close, but the texture and the freshness set it worlds apart!