Several years ago, in the PKE (pre-kid era), I’d wake up late on the weekend, call a friend, and join them for a leisurely brunch at one of a few favorite breakfast spots in town. I don’t remember what I did after brunch was over but the idea that I was on my own schedule sounds so foreign to me now. I mean, I used to go grocery shopping at midnight to avoid lines. I would paint until 2am then roll out of bed at 8 and start working in my PJs. I ate dinner standing up at the counter at 7, or 8, or 9…whenever I was hungry. What a strange and delightful life I had. Now it’s all routine and has its own delights. I wouldn’t give my kids up for the world and prefer to spend my every waking minute with them but now, thinking back to those blissfully relaxed brunches with friends, I’m feeling a bit sentimental for the old me and wishing I could have some leisurely brunches now and again.
My thoughts went down this path because I was reminiscing about one particular breakfast I remember very well. I struggle to remember meaningful events in my life but damn if I don’t remember almost every good meal I’ve eaten. And right now I’m thinking of orange-scented challah french toast with whipped cream, maple syrup, and a peach-thyme compote from Electric Cheetah. It’s no longer on the brunch menu but I’ve never forgotten it and recently decided to make my version again so I’m sharing it with you now (you’re welcome in advance!). If I remember this meal 7 years after having eaten it, it has to be good, right?
Challah makes perfect french toast. It is soft yet dense enough to hold up to the milk and egg mixture and in this recipe, the flavors of the challah sing in combination with a hint of orange essence. It’s truly divine!
- 1 loaf challah bread, cut into thick slices
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use almond milk but whole milk makes this creamier)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp orange extract
- 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Pour ingredients into a shallow dish such as an 8x8 baking dish and whisk until fully combined.
- Prepare your pan. I use cast iron and preheat it then add a dollop of butter. If you are using a nonstick pan, add butter to the pan and then heat to medium heat.
- Determine how many slices of french toast will fit into your pan - you'll want to only soak that many slices at a time. Soak your pieces of bread for about 30 seconds per side until the bread is soaked but still intact.
- Add bread to your heated pan and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and the inside is cooked.
- Between batches, add more butter to the pan before placing bread slices into the pan. You may have to adjust your heat, especially if using cast iron as the pan can increase in heat as you cook.
- Serve with maple syrup and berries.