There’s an icicle hanging off the eaves outside my window. Over the past twenty four hours it’s doubled in size. It is in direct sunlight most of the day and so it melts, but it’s also -3958 degrees outside (always!) so it refreezes. Two days ago it wasn’t there, and now all I can think about is how I hope no one walks anywhere below because it will, most definitely, impale.
I feel a little bit like that icicle. Frozen, sure. Soaking in the sunlight when I can get it, absolutely. But most of all, in the span of about two days, there was no change, and then, boom, there was all of the change.
Change is funny. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen fast enough and one frets and begs and bargains to see or feel even the slightest hint of progress. Other times it happens overnight, literally. One day theres nothing, the next there’s a two-foot, 4 inch wide icicle hanging from your roof.
I like to think I am adventurous and spontaneous and up-for-anything, but in reality as much as I like change, as much as I crave it (re: fret, beg, bargain, etc…) when it happens, especially when it happens suddenly and quickly, I feel a little paralyzed. That icicle doesn’t have feelings or a stomach, but if it did, and if it was like me, I bet it would have a pit in it. This metaphor is wearing thin.
All of this is to say that we are onto our next adventure. K, the cat, myself and the Two Recipes kitchen are on the road again, this time to the Hudson Valley region of New York. Without boring you with the details, we are assigned to a new job in a new area and are really, really excited. I love that area (remember Bear Mountain? That’s the Hudson Valley!) But I feel a little like I’m about to plummet from a building and hopefully not impale someone on the way down. I’m really excited and this is exactly what we wanted. But change? Some of the time it’s for the birds. All the time it’s necessary. Eventually it’s good. Real good.
That means that this week we will not be waiting until the last minute to pack and will be on the road by Friday. Friday’s Valentine’s day, did you know? While I’m driving with a 17-pound cat probably lodged somewhere in the smallest, most improbable place in my backseat, you should be celebrating, eating sweet things, and wearing pink.
This year we’ll celebrate in our usual way, which is low-key and usually involves a meal at home. But since we’ll be moving and packing and since grocery shopping isn’t the most logical thing to do right before one moves, I’m thinking a fun Valentine’s breakfast might be fun. This Baked Creme Brûlée French Toast would be a most welcome addition, I’m sure.
This recipe is incredibly easy and is made the night before, making it the perfect breakfast for a holiday. Pop it in the oven when you wake up and after your shower or a leisurely cup of coffee, breakfast is served. Let’s get started.
You’ll want to start with a loaf of Challah or brioche bread.
So shiny and pretty, don’t you think? For this recipe’s purposes, cut off the top and the sides so the slices of bread are uniformly square.
Set that bread aside and get to work on your caramel sauce. Combine brown sugar, butter and light corn syrup in a sauce pan and, whisking constantly, melt until it is very smooth.
Once smooth, pour it in a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Arrange slices of the bread in a single layer on top of the caramel sauce. You may need to cut some of the slices in half to fit the edge of the pan. I used about 6 1/2 slices.
Next, mix up the egg mixture. Five eggs go in a bowl…
…then add 1 1/2 cups of half and half, a teaspoon of vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of cinnamon.
Whisk until well combined and light yellow, then pour the egg mixture over the bread slowly, working to evenly pour it over all of the bread.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. It needs to sit for at least 8 hours or up to a day. The next morning, when you’re ready to bake, pull the pan out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (but, let me tell you a secret, if you don’t let it come to room temperature completely, it’s ok. Just take the chill off).
Place the french toast into a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and puffed.
I like a slight cinnamon flavor with my french toast, so I dusted the top with a little bit of cinnamon right out of the oven. This step is optional though.
Serve right away. Remember that caramel sauce on the bottom? It’s soaked into the bread over night and then bubbled and caramelized in the oven and creates only the most magical of food stuffs in the universe. Do I have a picture to show you? Of course not. It was too busy eating.
This is decadent, sweet, and very special. It’s perfect for a Valentine’s breakfast, and while it may give you a massive sugar rush, if you can’t embrace the sweet life on Valentine’s day, I ask, when can you? Better to indulge in this than 36 mini Hershey’s bars throughout the day.
You can kind of see the bubbly goodness on that far side of the pan. That’s where the love is. That’s how you tell your Valentine, “Hey, you, I think you’re nice and cute and here’s how I can prove that.”
If you’re sticking with a traditional Valentine’s dinner, I’ll have a special, romantic recipe for you later in the week. But I would encourage you to shake things up a bit this year and celebrate with a Valentine’s breakfast. Start the day off right.
Oh, and, will you be my Valentine? (In the interest of full disclosure, the job involves packing up my kitchen. Someone, please, send help).
Here’s the recipe.
Baked Creme Brûlée French Toast
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 8-9 inch loaf Challah or Brioche bread
- 5 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch of cinnamon, plus more for dusting after baking (optional)
- Combine butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a small heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, melt until smooth and well combined, about 5 minutes. Pour mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.
- Cut the top and the sides off your loaf of bread so that you have perfectly square pieces. Save the scraps for another use. Place the bread in a single, even layer on top of the caramel sauce. You may need to cut one slice in half for the edge of the pan. I used about 6 1/2 slices.
- Mix together the egg mixture by combining the eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Whisk until very smooth and light yellow. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread. Cover the pan in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator over night, at least 8 hours. Mixture can be made up to a day in advance.
- The next morning….preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the french toast to room temperature, or at least take the chill off for about 20 minutes. Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly golden brown and puffed. Dust the top with additional cinnamon and serve immediately.