Vanilla Spice French Toast

raspberries and french toast

I spoke to someone recently who didn't understand the concept of brunch. Who had never really experienced this wondrous meal, which blends the decadence of weekend breakfasts with an indulgent lie-in. How bizarre to have never enjoyed brunch before. With friends coming to visit for the weekend, I cooked up an extra special brunch. I like to win affection with food, and crave the approval that only a well-cooked meal affords. There were two courses - chorizo sausage hash followed by vanilla spice French toast. And if I do say so myself, it was a triumph. Whilst the sausage hash was deliciously spicy and filling, the French toast was really a stand-out dish, in my humble opinion. So much so that I've cooked it twice more since then.

At home, French toast is called 'eggy bread' and it is very much a savoury dish. At Brownie camp I learnt the doughnut-y deliciousness that could be achieved with a simple sprinkle of sugar over a lightly toasted piece of eggy bread. At home, however, this was scoffed at - eggy bread is for serving with bacon and ketchup. I think it's because the rest of my family are Scouts rather than Guides. They're missing out though. This is pudding for breakfast, and pairs just as well with bacon as it does with fresh, seasonal berries. Just add a drizzle of maple syrup and it's perfection on a plate. I based this recipe on Elizabeth's Baked Vanilla and Cinnamon French Toast recipe - with a few extra tweaks to satisfy my extra-sweet tooth.

baked french toast

You'll need:

  • 500g brioche (thick slices) 
  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 150ml double cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • seeds of three cardamom pods - crushed
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • brown sugar

To serve:

  • fresh raspberries
  • 12 slices of streaky bacon
  • maple syrup

1. Place the slices of brioche into a shallow baking dish so they are overlapping.

2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl. Mix together the milk and cream, and pour slowly on top of the eggs, whisking throughout.

3. Add the flavourings (vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg) and mix in thoroughly. You can of course adjust my suggestions to your tastes (I'm a nutmeg fiend, and always add more vanilla than is in any recipe).

4. Pour carefully on top of the brioche until it's fully covered. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 2-3 hours (or overnight - even better!).

5. Half an hour before cooking, take out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Squish the brioche with your hands to make sure it's evenly covered with mixture, and to make into more of a pudding shape. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

6. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and pop into the oven for half an hour until puffed up and golden brown.

7. Serve with crispy bacon strips or fresh berries and plenty of maple syrup.

finished french toast