Start the weekend off with a delicious twist to a family breakfast favorite.
Eggy bread. German toast. Pain perdu. Poor knights. French toast. No matter what you call it, bread soaked in milk, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon is one of those dishes that transports me back to Saturday mornings during my childhood. I'll bet it does the same for you.
The much anticipated weekend was the time when adults could get extra chores done around the house, see friends or host house parties, and I could spend the day playing with my pals. Today, weekends still feel like mini vacations to me. I usually set aside time to treat myself, whether that’s with special food, a few moments of pampering, or a chance to see a friend (albeit now it’s a physically distanced visit).
When I was growing up, weekday breakfasts were not flashy in our household. Every day, Dad would have two pieces of toast, coffee, and a small glass of orange juice. I probably had cereal (hot or cold), maybe a scrambled egg with toast when there was a little more time.
Not much has changed for American families. It’s expected that breakfast cereal sales this year will top $21 million. There are many more products on today’s market that helps bring a hot breakfast to our table; I’m thinking of frozen waffles to heat up in the toaster or microwavable breakfast sandwiches. Still, when somebody takes the time to cook a hearty breakfast for you, that’s special, no matter what era you’re from.
This Stuffed French Toast recipe also reminds me of a place I visited in Kansas City, Missouri, about five years ago. I was researching my book about Missouri’s chocolate makers and a beautiful B&B, Southmoreland on the Plaza, offered me hospitality for one night. The owners and innkeepers at the time, Nancy Miller and Mark Reichle, were a lovely couple who left the corporate world in Ohio to purchase and operate this luxury B&B. Although both knew their way around the inn’s substantial kitchen, Mark was the chef.
So many guests over the years encouraged him to compile his recipes into a cookbook, which he eventually did. He was gracious to gift a book to me at the time of my visit, and I later sent a copy of Delectable Destinations to him. Whenever I cook from Mark’s book, I fondly remember my stay with him and Nancy, which included a totally decadent, full breakfast in their courtyard where I feasted on molasses-brined pork chops, among other dishes.
Sadly, the couple has since sold Southmoreland, but I will always remember how they catered to each guest, making everyone—myself included—feel cared for and important.
I’ve only made a small tweak to Mark’s Stuffed French Toast recipe, swapping turkey bacon for honey ham. I think the balance of sweet with savory—whether you use bacon or ham—is just right.
Of course, you could stuff the French toast with hazelnut spread or your favorite jam. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll change it up next time with a fig jam and brie or blue cheese. Play around with it and have fun. After all, it’s National Hot Breakfast Month.
Naturally, the best ingredients make a better dish. Sure you can use plain white bread, but it’s great with a sourdough or for a richer toast, try it with brioche.
And in case you’re wondering if the French invented French toast, the answer is no. The earliest recipe, in Latin, dates to about the 5th century Romans. The French makes use of stale bread in their pain perdu (lost bread). The German “poor knights” version of the dish dates to the 14th century. The term “French toast” first appeared in the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink in 1871.
Because we’re spending so much time indoors with immediate family members, take this opportunity to celebrate National Hot Breakfast Month; here are a couple of ideas:
Make the Stuffed French Toast recipe. (duh)
Have breakfast for dinner and watch a movie, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Here are a few other movie ideas.
Purchase a few bags of breakfast cereals, including oatmeal, to donate to an area food pantry. This pandemic has created a lot of hungry families.
For more hot breakfast ideas this month, follow the kitchen on Facebook and Instagram @threewomeninthekitchen.com. You won't want to miss the Breakfast Bombs recipe; it's, well, the bomb!
Stuffed French Toast
This is a slightly modified recipe from the Southmoreland on the Plaza cookbook, Tried and True (2007/Morris Press Cookbooks). You could easily swap out the bacon for 6 slices of honey ham, which is what the original recipe included. The inn also usually dusted the dish with powdered sugar as a final garnish.
2 cups half & half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
12 slices bread
12 slices Swiss cheese
12 slices turkey bacon
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Beat eggs, half & half, vanilla, and cinnamon together. Set aside.
Build sandwiches by placing bacon between two slices of cheese. Arrange meat and cheese between the two slices of bread.
Dip sandwiches into the egg batter and cook on a buttered griddle or in a large skillet. Brown on both sides.
Cut each sandwich diagonally and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle almonds over each sandwich and drizzle with syrup.
YIELD: 4-6 servings