Stuffed French toast just sounds so good, which is why I can never resist it when I see it on menus. I order it and daydream of creamy, luscious fruit between eggy toast, crisp at the edges and custard-like in the center. But every time, when the plate actually hits the table, I end up with a cloying, mushy and sloppy breakfast.
Still, even after all that disappointment, the idea of stuffed French toast is just too fantastic to give up on. I set out with a pile of eggs, a few loaves of bread and my husband Will as a taste tester to discover how to make this dish taste every bit as delicious as it sounds. And after a few weekends of slicing, dipping and frying, I found how to make my brunch dreams real.
Slice your own bread
Everyone has a favorite type of bread for French toast (I even know people obsessed with the lovely savory note rye bread will lend) but I’m a believer in rich breads like brioche or challah.
But whatever kind of bread you like, buy a whole loaf and slice it at home. The width of pre-sliced packaged bread is simply too thin to hold up to a rich layer of stuffing. You need slices that are at least ¾” wide so that your stuffing really has something to sit on. The bread will also shrink a little (you’ll be toasting it) so ¾” wide slices end up giving you the perfect stuffing-to-bread ratio.
And while we’re talking about bread size, I prefer for mini-loaves—3” or 4” wide loaves of bread if you can get them. These smaller slices make for a perfect portion for such a rich dish.
Toast the bread
A lot of French toast recipes tell you to use stale bread (in France, the dish is actually called pain perdu, “lost bread”), but actually toasting fresh bread will coax flavor out of your loaf while ensuring the bread will maintain texture and structure when it’s slathered in creamy, melting filling.
Add texture to the filling
For the filling, I love a sweet-tart-creamy mix of fruit preserves and a soft cheese. But it’s great to having lots of textures in this dish; an easy way is to add something crunchy to the filling like nuts or granola. Chop up a handful of salted nuts and the salt will help balance all the sweet.
Don’t dip until you’re ready to fry
Make sure your pan is hot and ready-to-go before you dip your toast in egg. There are great French toast recipes that have you soak the bread in the egg for a custardy center. But since you have a creamy stuffing in this dish, keeping the bread here a little drier and crisper gives a great texture contrast.
Actually fry the battered toast
You’ve got to pan fry the toast to get it crisp….pan fry, people! Do not let it slowly brown in melted butter or it’ll be soft, flabby and greasy. Use a tablespoon or two of peanut oil (so that you can get it very hot) and throw in a pat of butter for flavor.
Apricot-Cheese Stuffed French Toast
8 – 10 slices bread, ¾” slices (I like brioche, cut from a mini-loaf)
1 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup apricot preserves (or flavor of your choice)
¼ cup salted almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup almond milk (or regular milk, but I like the flavor of almond)
¼ cup peanut or vegetable oil, as needed
2 pats butter, as needed
Toast the bread: Heat your oven to 300⁰ F and lay the brioche slices on a baking sheet. Toast until brown around the edges, flip and toast again, about 10 minutes total.
Make the filling and batter: Mix the mascarpone, preserves and chopped almonds in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the almond milk. Set aside.
Make sandwiches and heat pan: Take one piece of toast and spread a ½” layer of filling over the entire piece. Lay another piece of toast on top and gently press down. When you have all the sandwiches made, place enough peanut oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Place over medium heat.
Dip and fry: When the oil is very warm but not quite hot, take a sandwich and dip the entire thing in the egg mixture. (Dip as many sandwiches as you’ll be able to fit in one batch in the pan.) Let each side sit in the egg wash for about 10 seconds so that it absorbs some of the egg. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle immediate when you drop a bread crumb in, add a pat of butter and fry the sandwiches on each side until golden brown. Serve hot.