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02/17/2016

~Peaches & Cream, Date & Nut Bread French Toast~

IMG_2584When short on time, breakfast is a meal I can speed-eat through, standing up, with no regret -- "tea and toast" and "I'm good to go", satisfied and focused.  That said, I have a weakness for French toast, and if I spy it on the breakfast buffet, this otherwise punctual gal is either gonna be a few minutes late or in a rather bad mood for the better part of the morning.  You choose.

A bit about French toast:  The French name for it is "pain purdu", meaning "lost bread", referencing bread that becomes dry after a day or two.  The basics of making French toast: Thickly-sliced, 2-3-day old bread is soaked in a whisked egg and cream or milk mixture, then fried in a skillet containing a bit of butter and/or oil. When executed correctly, the bread emerges from the skillet crisp and golden brown on the outside with a creamy, almost pudding-like center. It is simple, straightforward and scrumptious, and, it can be done with almost any type of bread.

IMG_25612-3- day-old bread is recommended because stale bread will soak up more of the egg mixture without falling apart.

In the case of yeast breads (French brioche, rustic Italian, sour dough, Pullman loaves, etc.), the French toast is usually served with a few pats of butter and topped with some sort of a sweet sauce, syrup, preserve or Confectioner's sugar.  This makes sense, since, on their own those types of yeast breads have very little flavor of their own.  In the case of quick-breads, which are typically enhanced with lots of flavors and textures (banana, pumpkin, zucchini bread, etc.), topping them with anything other than a bit of whipped butter or cream cheese and a few pieces of fresh fruit is missing the point -- if it is cloyingly sweet you want, iHop will be happy to oblige.

IMG_2294French toast made with quick-bread is not something I grew up eating.  I want to say it's because a loaf of quick-bread never hung around our house long enough to get "stale", but, truthfully, I don't think the thought ever occurred to my mother.  The first time I encountered it was in Atlanta, GA in 1986.  We were there for a Penn State tailgate and staying with friends.  Alice called it "French Toast Casserole" and she made it with store-bought banana bread.

IMG_2305Once that seed was planted in my head, before long I was baking my grandmother's vintage quick-bread recipes for the sole purpose of making French toast for my family of five.  Making stuffed quick-bread French toast came next and it was often their choice for a weekend or special occasion breakfast.  The recipe below was one of their favorites and my recipe for ~ Back to Basics, Plain & Simple, Date & Nut Bread ~ can be found in Categories 5, 12 or 20.

Date & Nut Bread + Peaches & Cream Cheese = Tres Magnifique French Toast!

IMG_2464For the Peaches 'n Cream Cheese Center:

8  ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

2  canned peach halves

2  teaspoons peach extract

IMG_2465~ Step 1. Place all ingredients in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process until smooth, stopping once or twice during the process to IMG_2472scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  You will have about 1 1/2 cups of very tasty "whipped" cream cheese which can be used as a spread for bagels, muffins or any toast too.

IMG_2474~ Step 2. Transfer the mixture to a 2-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

IMG_2481For the Stuffed French toast (4 servings):

8  slightly-less-than-1/2"-thick slices 2-3- day old date and nut quick-bread

8  tablespoons of chilled peaches & cream cheese mixture

4  extra-large or jumbo eggs

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

IMG_25011/2  teaspoon apple pie spice

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

canola or corn oil, for frying

canned peach slices, for topping, and crisply-fried bacon, for a salty accompanyment

IMG_2506~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, vigorously whisk together the eggs, cream, apple pie spice and salt.  Set aside.

IMG_2485 IMG_2489 IMG_2494~ Step 2.  Place 2 tablespoons of chilled cream cheese mixture on center of 4 of the bread slices. Using a knife, spread it to within 1/2" of the perimeter on all four sides of each slice.  Place remaining 4 slices of bread on top and gently press down -- enough so cream cheese flattens out a bit more but does not ooze out the sides.

Note:  To this point sandwiches can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  The egg mixture can also be whisked together and refrigerated several hours or overnight too.  This is really convenient when making breakfast for overnight guests.

IMG_2514 IMG_2509~ Step 3. Pour half of the egg mixture (1 cup) into an 8" x 11" x 2" casserole.  Place the sandwiches into the egg mixture and drizzle the remaining egg mixture over their tops.  Allow the bread to soak for 10 minutes, stopping to flip the sandwiches over after 5 minutes.

IMG_2522 IMG_2531                                       ~ Step 4.  Heat a thin coating of oil (a scant 1/4") in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Using a wide spatula, one-at-at-time remove sandwiches from egg mixture and place in the hot skillet. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 2-3 minutes per side.  

Serve ASAP garnished w/sliced peaches & bacon to the side.

IMG_2577The only thing you have to fear, is fear itself (& the bathroom scale):

IMG_2597Peaches & Cream, Date & Nut Bread French Toast:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups cream cheese spread, which is enough to make 8 servings of stuffed French toast.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; food processor; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container; serrated bread knife; 2-cup measuring container; whisk ; 8" x 11" x 2" casserole dish; 12" nonstick skillet

6a0120a8551282970b01a73da325da970dCook's Note: To learn how I make classic French toast, using homemade brioche (which I effortlessly make in my bread machine) you can find my recipe for ~ Mel's French-Vanilla French Toast (Pain Purdu) ~ in Category 2.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright2016)

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