challah french toast with berries and sweet whipped cream
If I told you I was supposed be on a healthy eating kick, would you even believe me now? Sometimes, you just have to sacrifice for the good of others, so you make them the best french toast ever. This all started with a trip to Japan in 2016. You also probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that we had the best french toast of our lives in Tokyo would you? Well, there is this hidden away little café, down a flight of stairs in a basement, called Café Aaliya, where they pretty much ONLY serve french toast. It can be hard to find Western breakfast options in Japan as the Japanese are not really that into the first meal of the day, but this was a real unexpected treat.
Oh how I have dreamt about that french toast, it was so eggy and gooey on the inside, it literally melted in my mouth. So I have set about to recreate it. Now obviously, the french toast in Japan was made with Japanese bread, which pretty much warrants its own blogpost it was so good. It is possible to find milk bread in Asian bakeries here in the US, but challah bread is a little more accessible and has a similar texture, so that is what I went for here.
I also wanted to customise it a little, so I added a few Christmassy spices. Everything is better when it tastes like Christmas. If you are for whatever reason not a fan of cinnamon and nutmeg, then you can simply omit them. But everyone should love cinnamon, it can even lower your blood sugar, which may well be necessary after you’ve loaded up your french toast with maple syrup.
Of course we are going to top this french toast with clouds of sweet whipped cream and rivers of maple syrup. If we didn’t, would it even be breakfast?! A few berries here and there for some #health vibes, and you’re set. So as I mentioned, this is one of those melt in the middle french toasts, so lets talk custards.
We’re going in heavy on the eggs, because once again it is a breakfast dish and eggs are good for you. No, really, we’re hitting heavy on the yolks for all their richness, and there is an added bonus to this. This recipe will leave you with 4 egg whites just begging to be made into meringue! You could also use some of the leftover whipped cream and berries with said meringue and before you know it, you’ve got Eton Mess. This is another classic British summertime dessert, and so super easy I can tell you how to make it in a sentence. Crush meringues, fold into sweetened whipped cream, stir berries in. Spoon it into some fancy glasses and there you have it!
As you can see, I am rather easily distracted and jump at any opportunity to relay more food ideas to people. At least I have an outlet for it now with the blog! Anyway, back to the custard. So now we have our eggs and a little vanilla, a few spices and a healthy dose of sugar, its onto the dairy. We do not have half and half in the UK, and I remember being so intrigued by American recipes calling for it. If you know me, then you know that I am at my happiest in foreign supermarkets. When I moved to Austin for a year I spent hours browsing aisles in HEB (shoutout to Texas!), Central Market, Wholefoods and Fiesta. After spending a good few minutes being very confused by the difference between low-fat, low-carb and low-sugar Cool Whip which all appeared to have the same nutritional values! And yes, I did purchase one, and no, I was not keen. So apparently half and half is half cream and half skimmed milk, which is absolutely perfect for a custard like this! Just the right level of richness and fat content.
As challah bread is quite squidgy, for want of a better word, I took Not Quite Nigella’s tip for freezing it before slicing. Amazing. You can remove all the crusts so easily without losing any volume of the bread. You want to get rid of all the crusts so you just have perfect french toast texture all the way through each bite. The bread thaws really quickly, so just pop it into the custard, turn it over a few times and leave it in the fridge.
I left mine overnight, but it also worked just as good the next day, so if you want to make a double batch and eat it two days in a row, I won’t tell anyone. I promise. You might even want to have it for lunch too, with some bacon. That is another brilliant American invention. Bacon and syrup, who’d have known. People in the UK are finally warming to it!
So after rather a long post, I will leave you with a few tips!
- Always explore food shops when travelling! You never know what great things you can pick up to take home in your suitcase and evoke memories of that place when you are back in your own kitchen.
- Always douse your french toast in syrup!
- Whip your own cream! It takes a few minutes and is so much nicer than the stuff in a can.
- Don’t be afraid to leave your bread to soak for up to two days!
- Serves: 4
- Cooking time: 20 minutes prep + 12 hours resting time + 5 mins cooking time
- for the toast:
- 1 loaf challah bread, frozen for at least 6 hours
- 1 whole egg
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups half & half
- pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- for the toppings:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- copious amounts of maple syrup
- 1 cup fresh berries
- To make the custard, combine the egg, egg yolks, sugar, spices, vanilla and salt and whisk to combine.
- Add the half & half and whisk again. Set aside while you prepare the bread.
- Take the challah from the freezer, and using a bread knife trim off all the crust. Cut 4 really thick slices (1.5-2 inches).
- Pour the custard into a baking dish and lay the bread slices in it, turning a few times to coat both sides well.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When you are ready to eat, combine the powdered sugar and heavy cream in a sturdy bowl, and whip to soft peaks using an electric hand whisk or your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. If you are a glutton for punishment or want to tone up those arms, use a hand whisk.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and spray with flavourless oil (canola works well). Cook the french toast for a few minutes on each side until golden, then serve with heaping clouds of whipped cream and drown in maple syrup. Add a few berries if you want to pretend this is a healthy breakfast.
You can soak the bread in the custard for anywhere between 6 and 48 hours.