Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Baked Almond French Toast

Wednesday, January 09, 2019
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Baked French Toast
French toast is a food made by soaking bread in egg and milk and then frying it. There are many variations on this basic recipe, both sweet and savory, and the dish is very popular in many parts of the world. Typically, French toast is eaten at breakfast. Many people make French toast at home, although the food is also offered at restaurants which specialize in breakfast food.

Ingredients for 8

2 tablespoons almond paste

¾ cup granulated sugar, divided

½ cup salted butter, softened

5 large eggs, divided

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 (1-in.-thick) brioches or Challah bread slices

½ cup sliced almonds

Directions

Place oven rack in upper third position. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Beat almond paste and ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add butter; beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 1 of the eggs; beat until just combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk cream, milk, vanilla and remaining ½ cup sugar and 4 eggs in a shallow bowl. Spread almond-paste mixture evenly on 1 side of each bread slice (about 2 tablespoons per slice). Working 1 at a time, soak each slice, 1 minute per side, in vanilla-cream mixture. Transfer slices, almond-paste-mixture side up, to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with sliced almonds. Bake the French toast in preheated oven until slightly golden, about 20 minutes. Serve with maple syrup or orange marmalade, if desired.

Make-Ahead Tip: Assemble slices on baking sheet); cover and chill overnight. In the morning remove from fridge, and bake uncovered as instructed.

History notes:

According to the Apicius, a collection of recipes from the early 5th century AD, the dish we now know as the French toast existed as early as the age of the Roman Empire. In their style of French toast, called Pan Dulcis, Romans would soak bread in milk (and sometimes also egg) mixture, then fry it in oil or butter. In the 15th century English court of Henry V, a version of the French toast called "pain Perdue" or "lost bread" was the culinary rage. Then, it was called "lost" bread because the recipe called for soaking hard or stale bread in a mixture of milk and egg, then frying it. Pain Perdue is what the French call French toast today. But what we call French toast was not invented in France. According to legend, it was an Albany, New York, innkeeper named Joseph French. He created the dish in 1724, and advertised it as "French Toast" because he was grammatically inept and forgot the apostrophe. To make French toast, the cook whisks eggs and milk together and soaks bread in the mixture before frying it on a griddle, usually with a pat of butter. Ingredients such as nutmeg and cinnamon may be added to the egg and milk mixture to make the French toast spicier. Depending on personal taste, the toast may be made sweet with the addition of syrup, or it may be savory with a dressing of salt, pepper, or hot sauce. It may also be served with things like sausage or bacon, and it is best when served warm. The food may be called “French” toast because French breads often go stale quickly. French specialty breads like brioche are usually designed to be eaten on the day they are made, and they tend to get dry and tasteless if they sit too long. Classic French breads such as sourdoughs and baguettes also stale quickly, which can be frustrating. Technically, any sort of bread can be used, ranging from a whole wheat loaf to sweet bread like Stollen. The food is by no means restricted to the West, either; it is very popular in several Asian countries as well.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking, School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog

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