Once I was shopping at the grocery store with my Mom and I guess the sweep spirit moved me because I decided to reenact the show as we were walking around the store. I got so into my little supermarket make believe game that I then started strategizing my own game-winning plan. I was yelling out all of the items that I would select and chucking them into my cart, one by one.
“Corn! Peanut Butter! Diapers! Diapers! Diapers!” As I was deep in the thick of my shopping shenanigans, a can of sweetened condensed milk exploded all over the floor right in front of me, just oozed all over the place.
“Oooops!” Game over, I thought. I looked up and saw a whole group of people watching me in total amusement. I suddenly became very self-aware and mortified at how silly I was being. I have to admit that I kind of wish I had a little more of that childhood recklessness in me now. Being too self aware and polite and normal and not silly all the time is a bit boring. But with tomorrow comes new opportunity, I guess, and also a much needed grocery-shopping trip. So who knows? Maybe I’ll stage a little Supermarket Sweep reenactment again for old time’s sake. Lord knows I could use the diapers …
French toast is one of those things that is tough to screw up. Even bad French toast is usually pretty good – like pizza or cheeseburgers (unless you burn them, then it’s a different story entirely). Even if all you do is toss basic sandwich bread around in some beaten eggs and a little milk, it’s still pretty darn tasty when topped with some maple syrup. My Mom was telling me recently about how it was always her breakfast dish of choice when she was a kid. Morning in and morning out, my Grandma would make it for her and I assume that it was probably little more than the above-described version: basic bread, a couple of eggs, splash of milk, and syrup. Reliable. Classic. Simple. If you’re eating French toast on a daily basis, then this is probably the route to take. But what if you want to elevate your French toast to something that’s just a little bit MORE?
There are plenty of recipes out there for extra-super-over-the-top-tricked out French toast that have been grabbing my attention and pulling at my heartstrings lately. I’ve seen French toast bagels, French toast doughnuts, stuffed French toast, baked French toast casseroles, and almost every other iteration of the dish that you can think of. But I simply wanted to come up with a way to infuse a little more flavor into the actual custard itself, in hopes that it would boost the overall flavor of the bread. This is where the dulce de leche comes in.
A common recipe in Mexican cuisine, dulce de leche literally translates to “candy made of milk.” By making dulce de leche and adding it to the custard, you boost the milk and sugar components and ultimately wind up with a tastier, more impactful liquid with which to drown your bread. It’s sort of like inviting Superman to take a swing at the birthday party piñata in place of say, your Uncle Frank. Frank is great, but Superman is better. Such is the case with this custard. Regular sugar and milk are fine additions to a traditional French toast batter, but dulce de leche is better. It’s Superman.
You can make your own dulce de leche totally from scratch, and it’s actually pretty easy. I’ve done it once and it’s fine. But you can mimic the exact same flavor and texture by simply boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours. Easy as pie. Easy as TOAST. My second trick to creating extra special French toast is to soak it in the custard over night. This works wonders for the finished product. The custard seeps into every pore – every single nook and cranny of that bread picks up that eggy goodness and it really helps it become something more than just bread with scrambled eggs on the outside. I made my own bread here and then just sliced it as I pleased, but that’s clearly not necessary. I WILL say that purchasing an unsliced loaf and then slicing it yourself into thick, 1” slices is the way to go though. Just say no to pre-sliced bread! Save those skinny sandwich slices for, well … your sandwiches.
So there you have it. My three tricks for killer French toast:
1) Dulce de leche custard
2) Overnight soak
3) DIY slicing.
It’s as simple as that. I’m confident that Superman himself might even be fond of this one.
Dulce de Leche French Toast RECIPE
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
5 slices of bread (any kind you like), sliced 1-inch thick
1 cup of half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Butter for frying the French toast (4 – 5 tablespoons)
Ricotta, crème fraiche, whipped cream, or sour cream for topping
Mixed berries for topping (optional)
Place the can of condensed milk into a pot of boiling water, ensuring that the can is fully submerged (at all times). Cook the can at a simmer for three hours, making sure to add more water as it evaporates. Remove the can after three hours and cool for about 15 – 20 minutes before removing the lid. Now you have dulce de leche! Note: It is easiest to use while it’s still warm.
Meanwhile, make the custard. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the still warm dulce de leche, stirring until everything is nicely combined.
Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in a large, rectangular baking dish (9 X 13 works). Pour the custard mixture over the bread slices, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
To cook: Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook the bread slices for about 5 minutes per side (do this in batches), or until golden brown and cooked through in the center. Add more butter to the pan as you go.
To serve, I like to top each slice of toast with some mixed berries (I always have frozen ones around) that I cook for about 10 minutes in a small saucepan to allow the juices to escape. I then mix a little of the dulce de leche with some ricotta or some crème fraiche and use that as a creamy topping as well. Maple syrup is always welcome on my French toast too. But top as you like! Enjoy.