Saturday, October 26, 2013

Apple and Cheese-Stuffed French Toast

I still don’t know which day of the week I like best, Friday or Saturday. Friday is exciting for people who work Monday to Friday, because you know that at the end of the workday you’ll be free of that type of stress for two days. Sometimes though, Friday is not so much fun because the day seems to drag on and on while you wait for 5 pm to show its pretty face.

Saturday is pretty awesome because if you’re lucky, you might get to sleep in a little bit. Then maybe go to the gym, hang out, do whatever you want to do…relax, grocery shop, walk the dog, watch bad TV, cook, play Lego with your kids, eat.

Saturday night is also super amazing because you can go out, or not. It’s your night and you can decide how to spend it. And, you can stay up really late knowing that you don’t have to get up the next morning (but then again, maybe you do have to get up because your kids have lacrosse practice at 10 am, but I digress).

This past Friday night (yesterday), I had only one thing to do – prepare a dish for lunch on Saturday because we had guests coming over at noon - The King of Soup's childhood friend, his wife, and their one year old son. After a brief consultation with The King, we agreed that I would prepare a smashing recipe I have for baked French toast. This one is extra special because it has apples in it, and cream cheese, and wait for it…jam. Considering we have a cold room full of apples from our recent excursion apple picking, we thought it would make sense to use some up in this amazingly easy and delicious dish.

A long time ago when I still lived in Montreal, before The King and I had even met, I came to Toronto to visit my friend Robyn who was going to school at Ryerson. I have many reasons to love Robyn, one of which is that she introduced me to Salad King, another is that she took me to eat at Mövenpick Marché where I discovered rösti, the Swiss version of a potato latke. The reason I am mentioning her now in this post is that there was one other thing she tried to get me to try at the Marché - bread pudding. At the time I could think of nothing less appealing, so I refused to try even a bite. If only she had called it baked French toast instead of bread pudding, my life would have been so much better so much sooner! Still love you, Rob!

This recipe for baked French toast is called Apple and Cheese-Stuffed French Toast and it’s from the book Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kancigor. My sister-in-law Bryony gave this book to me for my birthday in 2008 and it remains to this day, one of my favourite Jewish cookbooks (along with Second Helpings and Noreen Gilletz’s Food Processor Cookbook – both bibles in any Jewish kitchen). Without further ado, here’s the recipe. As usual, my edits are in brackets.

Better put your eating pants on.

Apple and Cheese-Stuffed French Toast

1 ½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice (bottled lemon juice will do just fine)
1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
8 tbsp (1 stick, or ¼ cup) butter, plus extra for greasing the baking pan
¾ cup packed brown sugar (½ cup is more than enough)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp Kosher (coarse) salt
4 large green apples (such as Granny Smith or Mutsu), peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Ida Red apples because that’s what we had on hand)
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
1 loaf (1 pound) challah*, thickly sliced (sometimes I find you need 1 ½ loaves – depends on the thickness of the slices)
About ½ cup raspberry or apricot jam (I usually use more than ½ cup and I have used many different jams like strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, etc – all have been tasty)
6 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk (I use skim milk)
1 cup half and half cream (this time I used half and half but usually I use skim milk)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (really, no one should ever use artificial vanilla)
Cinnamon sugar mixture for sprinkling on top before baking

Start by mixing the cornstarch and lemon juice together in a small glass - I use a fork to ensure there are no lumps. Set the mixture aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and stir until the sugar has melted. 

Peel, core and slice the apples and add them to the butter and sugar. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring the apples around a bit. 

Remove from the heat and add the cornstarch/lemon mix. Stir to thicken and then set aside to cool.

Butter a 9” x 13” glass lasagna pan. Pour the cooled apples (they don’t have to be cold, just slightly cooled) into the pan and ensure they cover the bottom relatively evenly.

Spread cream cheese on the slices of bread. 

Place the challah on top of the apples, cream cheese side up. Fill all the nooks and crannies by tearing the bread into strips or pieces as required.

Spread the jam on top of the cream cheese challah.

And then sandwich the jam by placing the rest of the challah on top, cream cheese side down.

Whisk the eggs, milk, cream and vanilla in a large bowl. 

Pour the mixture over the bread ensuring you cover all of it as evenly as possible. Cover the pan and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, remove the pan from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top of the challah. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

This dish is juicy because of the apples, and sweet because of the sugar and jam, so you don’t really NEED maple syrup. Having said that, it’s extra sinful and delicious if you do add syrup.

Today I served this dish with a fruit salad (grapes, avocado, strawberries, gooseberries, apple and banana), and it was amazing. When you make it, I bet there won’t be any leftovers, and you’ll be a hero.

Better get your eating pants on.

* Challah is egg bread. You can use French bread instead if you can’t find challah.

For a savoury version of this dish from the same cookbook, click here:

For more on challah, click here:

For more on rösti, click here:

For more on Salad King, click here:

For more on potato latkes, click here:

For more on Robyn, click here: just kidding

To read about or purchase Noreen Gilletz’s Food Processor Cookbook, click here: (note that this is the revised and updated edition)