Out to Brunch: You would totally pay $14 for this.

Maybe $17 dollars, depending on whether the restaurant is here in Jersey City or New York, because the bacon is from Niman Ranch. Those fuckers know how to handle a pig, I tell you what. Mimosas are extra.

And the Jews know how to make some egg bread.

Pigs are flying past my window, which means either monkeys have flown out of my butt or hell has frozen over. I’m going to go with the hell thing, because that’s the only explanation that also accounts for the current -2 temperature: it’s the chill emanating from Hades.

The only time temperature should involve single digits is when it’s being reckoned in Celsius.

Since there’s no way in hell we were going out for brunch today, there was no other option but to make an amazing brunch at home. Let me be clear: this is not an every-Saturday brunch. This is a special occasion, I-don’t-mind-fasting-for-the-rest-of-the-day brunch: honeyed mascarpone-stuffed challah French toast, with cardamom-banana-brown sugar topping.

Oh yeah, and bacon.

And the Italians? We know how to make everything else.

So that’s how I ended up, post-French toast binge, full and warm and happy, curled up under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea, watching Ratatouille*while I try to use regular English words to try and explain how much I love this French toast and how much better it is than your French toast.

It starts with challah or brioche, cut thick enough that you can cut a pocket for stuffing into it – about an inch and a half thick. You could also use a nice white Pullman loaf, but I know you wouldn’t. If possible, do this the night before so the bread can sit and dry out a little overnight, which will help the bread soak up more delicious, delicious custard. You can make the custard the night before too, to save time in the morning. Brian, who is our official French-toast-cooker, swears by Alton Brown’s custard recipe and cooking method.

I mixed a few teaspoons of honey into the mascarpone left over from the second-to-last Smackdown. To get it into the bread, I used the time-honored method of piping with a ziploc bag.

*Have you not seen this movie? Do you think you’re too good for cartoons? YOU ARE NOT. Go to place where films are sold or rented, and buy or rent it.

Bread + cheese = a lifetime of sustenance.

I got just a few tablespoons of mascarpone into each slice – not an overwhelming amount and really all you need. Note that I said it’s all you need. I held myself back only because I didn’t want to scare you; otherwise I would have piped these babies full to bursting, because I enjoy taking things to unhealthy extremes. I propped them upright in a casserole dish and put them in the fridge to chill for a little while so the cheese wouldn’t ooze out immediately upon cooking. There was extra cheese left in the bag, but I used the promise of better things to come (and the smell of cooking bacon) to keep from squeezing it into my mouth. Mostly. Also I snacked on some of the bacon.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest part.

The bread soaks in the custard for 30 seconds to a minute per side, depending on thickness, and then rests on a cooling rack for a few minutes to allow the liquid to fully penetrate the bread. Meanwhile, you’re heating a pat of butter in a pan and eating an extra piece of bacon because after you ate the first piece there were an odd number of slices and you need an even number so that the two of you will ultimately have the same amounts of bacon on your plates.

I take bacon very seriously.

It gets really hard right around here.

The toast browns for a few minutes on each side to crisp and then goes into a low oven – per Alton Brown – so the insides can finish cooking through while remaining moist and custardy.

Mmmm. Custard

I could be a professional brown-sugar-packer.

Seriously, look at that brown sugar. You could play a full professional hockey match with that shit. (Is that what you call a full round of hockey – a match? I have no idea.)

The toast only spends 5 or 6 minutes in the oven, so I threw together an uber-quick pan sauce: some light brown sugar melted down with a pat of butter, a few tablespoons of cream, some good vanilla, a splash of dark rum and a half-teaspoon or so of cardamom. Cardamom is the new smoked paprika is the new miso cod is the new black. I was a little disappointed that either there wasn’t enough rum to light on fire, or I was too slow applying flame to rum. Either way, nothing was flambeed. Which is probably just as well, given that I’m an uncoordinated mess who once set her hair on fire in a halogen lamp.

You could pour this on ANYTHING.

When the liquid got nice and bubbly, I added a few sliced bananas and let them warm through and cook a little while the liquid reduced down just a smidge, enough to coat the back of a spoon.

See? Even number.

Did I mention there was bacon? Really, really good bacon.

Cook’s Illustrated did a bacon ranking not that long ago, and Niman Ranch came in pretty low on their list. Normally, I trust the Cook’s Illustrated people implicitly – the only thing they’ve ever lead me astray on has been oatmeal cookies, and I’m sure that that was my fault – but I have to quibble with this one. I think it fell in the rankings because it fell a little lower on the smokiness scale, but on the pure pork scale it can’t be beat. And the drippings, which you are of course saving in the crock where you save all your bacon fat because I know that you are doing that, are invaluable.

If you aren’t already doing this: don’t be a hater. Haven’t you read this book yet? Okay, I haven’t either, but I’m also not the one who needs to be convinced of the wonders of pork fat. Less “bad” fat than butter, calorically the same as olive oil and TASTES LIKE BACON. What are you waiting for?

Okay, maybe $17.50.

These are fat slices of French toast, so I took one*, spooned a few generous spoonfuls of banana and sauce over and attempted and failed to create some architectural interest by propping a few slices of bacon against it. The toast was beautifully browned, the bananas were heated through without turning into banana mush, and the sauce was just thick enough and perfectly glossy.

You know how sometimes you plate something up, and you almost don’t want to eat it because it looks so pretty? This plate was like that. I know it doesn’t look quite that good because I don’t actually know how to do anything in Photoshop other than manipulating brightness, contrast, and size. Not that I manipulate my photos in any way, because I don’t want to be disingenuous. But if I did use Photoshop and I were better at it, you would see just how gorgeous this plate was.

*For photographic purposes. I actually ate two. I’m admitting this to you because I know I can trust you, and because I know you will do the same thing.

Unrelated: Fancy Feast. Do you think your cat really cares if they’re getting Proven├žal fish and wild rice or a can of no-frills tuna? I’m just asking.

Here’s a cross section with as much clarity as I could achieve without the Nikon D90 none of you has bought be yet despite everything I do for you. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll appreciate me after I’m dead. [cough cough]

Anyway, check out the innards of this French toast: Crisp, browned outer layer. Fully cooked but custardy strata. Creamy, slightly sweet cheese barely oozing out of the middle, mixing with the brown sugar- banana sauce. Flecks of cardamom offsetting the sweetness of the topping and adding an enticing undertone to the whole dish. Serious brunchy goodness, despite the lack of mimosas (I would have fallen asleep for the rest of the day, and I’ve already been writing the post for almost 5 hours because I pretty much stopped entirely while watching Ratatouille).

Mascarpone-Stuffed French Toast with Banana-Cardamom-Brown Sugar Topping
serves 4

For the French Toast:
1 medium loaf challah or brioche
1/2 c. mascarpone
4 tbsp. honey
1 1/2 c. half-and-half, cream, or mixture of milk and cream/half-and-half
5 large eggs
Pinch of salt
2-4 tbsp. unsalted butter

The night before you plan to make this, slice the bread into 1 1/2 inch slices and cut pockets for stuffing – stick a paring knife into the bottom of each slice and work it back and forth until you have as large a pocket as you can make without destroying the bread. Leave the bread out overnight to dry out. You can make the custard the night before as well: whisk half-and-half, eggs, salt and 2 tablespoons of the honey together.

Whisk the other 2 tablespoons of honey into the mascarpone. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag or ziploc with the tip snipped off. Fill the cavities in the bread with the cheese mixture. Put the bread into the fridge while you pre-heat the oven and get the custard ready to give the cheese a little time to chill.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300 and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Pour the custard mix into a pie plate. Put a cooling rack over some paper towels. Put each slice of bread into the custard and hold down for 30 seconds; flip and hold down for another 30. Put the custard-soaked slices onto the cooling rack; this allowed the custard to really seep into the bread, and the paper towels catch any drippings.

Cook each piece of French toast for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer all the toast to a baking sheet and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.

It takes a little time, but trust me – it’s worth it.

For the topping:
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. dark rum
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. heavy cream
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom, fresh if possible
3 ripe bananas

Put all the ingredients except the bananas into a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is bubbling; it will just be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Slice the bananas and toss them with the sauce. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the bananas are heated through. The sauce will thicken a bit when off the heat. Pour over french toast, pancakes, waffles or ice cream and enjoy.

0 thoughts on “Out to Brunch: You would totally pay $14 for this.

  1. That looks sooooo delicious. If I had any mascarpone cheese (or challah, or bananas) I would totally make this for dinner tonight. Yes, dinner.

    Also, I’ve always eaten banans cooked in caramel like that over vanilla ice cream. It’s practically guaranteed to make you sick if you eat more than a tiny bowl, but it’s absolutely worth it.

  2. I smelled bacon as I woke up this morning, and couldn’t figure out why. It took me only minutes to figure out that it was coming from your blog….(I love the smell of a bacon-y blog in the morning!).

    I just don’t know what to say. I will be dreaming of this breakfast until I make it, and then it will be my favorite meal of all time. I know that just from reading the post.

    When Jews meet Italians in the kitchen, everybody wins!!!!!!

    BTW: Who’s recipe is this or where did you get the inspiration?????

  3. Are you doing a Sunday brunch too? I’m sitting her in my PJs on a Sunday morning, conteplating the dull, cold breakfast ahead of me, and I’d totally drive to NJ and pay $14 (or even $17) for that. But you’d have to throw in the mimosa for free if the blue laws won’t allow you to see liquor on Sunday morning.

  4. I think I need a shot of insulin just from READING about this.

    I am sad that we no longer have any bacon from the pig we had slaughtered for us last fall. In fact, all we have left from it is some pork belly, which I have not yet figured out how to cook. And we won’t be getting another pig until October. Boo.

  5. OH. MY. GOD. I am a dietitian currently getting a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition, but AMEN you! First: I am always trying to promote getting back to the fats of our past, e.g. bacon fat. Woooooeeee bacon fat… oh BABY! Second: how could someone not love this dish. And third: you are hysterical. Wish I could have that wit.



  6. I do recall that the email I get from Cook’s Illustrated said that bacon is pretty subjective and that there can major differences in the pigs. Which is totally true — I’ve had some very fatty bacon that was pretty gross and then the next time the same type of bacon is super delicious. Honestly, can you go wrong with bacon though?

    And I would definitely pay $14 for your bacon and French toast…I love cardamon!

  7. Holy shit, dude. I can’t wait to show this post to my sister, who’s coming to stay with us this weekend for her birthday. Oh, what a happy birthday it will be!

    Alton Brown and Michelle Weber. Geniuses, the both of them.

  8. Ratatoullie rocks! Thomas Keller consulted on it, and made it so real it felt like I was in the kitchen with them. I now keep a stuffed rat in my toolbox as my mascot. I’m not a big banana lover, but this looks so good I will probably try it as described anyway! I’m still drooling. Kristin, you could braise the pork belly Chinese style in a mixture of soy sauce and brown sugar. It sounds strange but tastes awesome. Alternatively, you could always make it into bacon!

  9. You’re right, I would pay $17.50 for that. And I would also lick my plate. Oh, and throw something on the ground that my breakfast companion would have to pick up so that I could steal his/her bacon, because I’m nothing if not a bacon thief.

  10. I’m blogging my own attempt at this toast and bacon from this morning…it turned out perfectly for brunch after 13.9 miles of running!

  11. That looks absolutely delicious. I’d pay more than $17. $18, maybe $19.
    Nice Tom Petty reference as well.

  12. I ended up eating half the mascarpone and honey mixture during the filling process… YUM!
    This was a HUGE hit at brunch. I will definitely be using this recipe again!

  13. ZOMG. I apologize now for the terrible use of internet abbreviation but I would like to say this French Toast is now my god. I bow down to you stuffed french toast you and your humor are amazing.

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