This French toast recipe is both festive and extremely easy to prepare. Thanks to a homemade, honey-kissed strawberry syrup that speaks to the arrival of spring berries, it’s also sure to be a crowd-pleaser, especially with kids.
I used brioche, a light and butter-rich French bread that tastes like a cross between a croissant and bread. But you could also use challah or plain-old white bread. It’s gently stuffed with a creamy mix of mascarpone and diced fresh strawberries, then dipped in a frothy batter of eggs and milk infused with a touch of cinnamon before being toasted to a golden brown in a frying pan.
I paired the toast with homemade pork sausage breakfast patties, which can be made a day ahead if you want to speed up prep on your brunch morning.
If you use pre-sliced bread that’s too thin for stuffing, no worries: simply double the amount of bread and spread the filling between two slices like a sandwich.
STRAWBERRY STUFFED FRENCH TOAST WITH HOMEMADE SAUSAGE
For the strawberry topping:
2 T. butter
2 T. honey
1 lb. plus 3 large fresh strawberries, rinsed and diced, divided
For the French toast:
8 thick slices brioche, preferably day-old
8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 c. whole milk plus 1 t., divided
2 T. sugar, divided
1 t. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon, optional
Butter for pan
For the sausage patties:
1 lb. ground pork
1 t. each minced fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
1 clove garlic, minced
Large pinch of salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
2 t. light brown sugar
Prepare the strawberry topping: In a large pan, melt butter and honey over medium heat until evenly melted. Add 1 pound strawberries and cook until heated through, crushing every so often with a fork, and berries break down into a sauce, about 10 minutes. Taste; if it doesn’t seem sweet enough, add a little sugar. Lower heat, and keep warm until ready to serve.
Prepare the sausage: In large bowl, combine ground pork with seasonings with your hands until well combined. Divide pork mixture into 8 equal-sized balls. Using damp hands, gently press balls into uniform patties. With your thumb, slightly depress the center of each patty, pushing the extra meat toward the edges. (This will help the patty cook flat instead of puffing up.) Set aside in fridge until ready to cook.
Prepare the French toast: Cut a horizontal slit about 2 inches long into the bottom of each bread slice to create a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through to the top.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the softened mascarpone with remaining 3 chopped strawberries, 1 teaspoon sugar, vanilla and 1 teaspoon milk. It should be smooth and creamy.
Transfer the cheese mixture to a pastry bag or a zip-top bag with a corner snipped off. Working one piece at a time, place the tip of the bag into the slit in the bread slice and fill the bread with about a tablespoon of the cheese, then gently smooth it inside the pocket with your fingers. Repeat with remaining slices, then set aside while you cook the sausage.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage patties for 2 minutes on each side, or until brown and crispy and cooked through. Set aside and cover with foil to keep warm while you make the French toast.
In a second bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, remaining sugar, salt and pinch of cinnamon, if using.
Coat a non-stick skillet with a thin layer of butter. Place it over medium-low heat until the butter begins to foam and sizzle.
Dip the bread slices, one at a time, into the egg mixture, allowing each side to soak up some of the mixture. Place the coated slices directly into the hot pan. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Be careful not to crowd the pan or the toast will stick together.
Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you repeat with remaining bread, adding more butter to the pan as needed.
Serve with strawberry topping and breakfast sausage patties. Serves 4.
— Tribune News Service