Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Jenga" French Toast with Mascarpone-Honey Whipped Cream and Plum-Cardamom Jam

The title says it all - this decadent brunch will have your guests drooling for more!

Initially I thought french toast "Jenga" just sounded like a fun idea. But once I ate it I realized that this was the perfect form for french toast. The sticks absorb the egg mixture and the increased surface area allows for more caramelization, giving the french toast extra texture and flavor.

"Jenga" french toast:
  • 4 eggs, cracked
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 loaf sourdough bread cut into 1"x1"x4" sticks
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat (or other oil substitute)

I like to use cayenne pepper to give my french toast a kick. It's not a spicy dish, but it adds complexity and creates a balance between the sweet and savory. Feel free to leave it out if you are averse to spice. In a shallow casserole dish or Tupperware, combine the eggs, milk, cayenne pepper, salt, and honey. Use a fork to mix everything together. Place the bread sticks into the egg mixture and soak for a minute or two, turning so that all 4 long sides are well covered.

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium on the stove top. Add 1 tbsp of butter, olive oil, vegetable oil or bacon fat.  (This dish goes great with crispy, salty bacon, so I cook the bacon first and reserve the rendered fat - liquid gold!)  Place 4-6 bread sticks into the hot fat and cook each side of the bread until a nice golden brown, about a minute or two per side. Remove the french toast and put it in a 350 degree oven to stay warm.

Mascarpone-honey whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp honey

In a medium sized bowl whisk the above ingredients together using an immersion blender, hand held mixer, or stand mixer until soft peaks form. This cream is not very sweet, so if your palate craves more sweetness, just add more honey.  I prefer the subtle sweetness of the whipped cream to contrast with the tart plum-cardamom jam.

Plum-cardamom jam
  • 6 ripe plums, peeled
  • 1 tbs cardamom
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup water

Place the above ingredients in a small pot and simmer on low heat until the jam reduces so that it coats the back of the spoon, usually 20-30 minutes. Freeze any excess jam in a ziplock baggie.  By no means do you have to use this particular jam. If you have a favorite jam, jelly or syrup in the fridge, use it!  In late summer I made this dish using a peach vanilla jam, and it was divine. Keep reading for that recipe soon!

To serve, stack the french toast and top with a dollop of cream.  Pour the jam over the top and drizzle with some extra honey. Serve with crispy bacon on the side. 

Sweet, salty, tart, creamy, chewy, and crispy - yum!

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