Monday, December 13, 2010

Caramelized Stuffed French Toast CHALLAnge

Once upon a time my friends Jake and Reagan went to Philadelphia to run a half marathon. But before they got to racing, they got to eating -- my kind of people. On the pre-race menu: Stuffed Caramelized Challah French Toast at Sabrina's Cafe. And then they (quite sportingly) CHALLAnged me to recreate it. (Reagan came up with the awesome name.)

It was a long time coming, but yesterday I finally got it together and threw down for the challenge. I honestly had no idea what I was doing -- I haven't tasted Sabrina's French toast, nor any other stuffed French toast -- but Reagan was kind enough to give me a hint: the cream cheese was whipped and flavored with cinnamon. The rest was just a matter of mixing up some ingredients I thought went well together.

I flavored reduced fat whipped cream cheese with maple syrup, cinnamon and orange zest, and spiked the egg custard with the same, plus nutmeg.

Although challah is braided, I was only able to find a traditional loaf shape.
And I see now that I should have made Mickey Mouse French toast.


How did it turn out? In a word: perfect.

This would be just the thing to whip up for house guests or a special occasion. The effort and time involved (about 20 minutes start to finish) are deceptively minimal for such an impressive result. Everyone will think you slaved over it, to which you can honestly respond: it was no trouble at all.
Caramelized Stuffed Challah French Toast
Serves two (recipe can be multiplied)

For the cream cheese filling:
1/4 cup cream cheese (I used a reduced fat whipped variety, which was too salty for my taste. I suggest you go with full fat Philadelphia cream cheese which is more creamy and less salty.)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (Laird didn't think the cream cheese filling was sweet enough, so you might consider increasing the maple syrup or adding honey or sugar.)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the toast:
Four slices challah bread, sliced one inch thick (You could substitute another rich bread such as brioche loaf.)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For serving:
One banana, sliced
Pure maple syrup
Powdered sugar

1. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese filling ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread a generous tablespoon (each) on two pieces of bread. Spread the filling to about 1/2-inch from the crusts so that it doesn't ooze out the sides during cooking. Place the plain bread slices on top of the slices with cream cheese filling, sandwich-like.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish and place one cream cheese "sandwich" in the mixture. Press down gently to ensure it absorbs lots of custard. Turn over and repeat on the other side.

3. Meanwhile, lightly coat a griddle or skillet with cooking spray and heat it to medium. Transfer the custard-soaked "sandwich" to the griddle and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until brown and caramelized. Slice in half and arrange on a plate with sliced bananas. Drizzle generously with pure maple syrup, dust with powdered sugar, and serve. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with remaining "sandwich."

Jake and Reag, it was super fun cooking for you.


  1. Yum! Foodie, this looks fantastic. Well done.

  2. I just might run a half marathon in your town in order to invite myself over for breakfast! ;)

  3. I just went into a diabetic shock. Save me.