Author Notes: When I was growing up, my mother used to make special weekend breakfasts -- eggs, waffles, pancakes or French Toast. These were leisurely meals, and because it was the weekend with no work to rush off to, my father would often pour a glug of Irish whiskey in his morning coffee. Why Irish whiskey? Well, my father was part Irish, so I always thought that he drank Irish whiskey because he was proud of his heritage. Or maybe he just liked the taste. Whatever the reason, I thought of those laid back family mornings when I created this recipe. My husband and I too have continued the tradition of fun weekend breakfasts for our seven-year-old daughter. Saturday breakfasts are usually hot cereal of some sort (my daughter has adored oatmeal since she was a baby), but Sunday breakfasts almost always feature my waffle iron or my heavy cast iron griddle. Last Sunday I was making French Toast for breakfast when I noticed a plastic bag containing a small amount of Corn Flakes crumbs in my pantry. They were too small to eat as cereal, and I was planning to use them instead of beadcrumbs for baked or fried fish, but knowing how much my daughter loves crunchy foods, I thought that it might be fun to use them as a French toast coating instead. Years ago I remember frequenting a restaurant for brunch in New York City that made a French Toast dish encrusted with Corn Flake. I decided to try to recreate the spirit of that dish. I wanted to infuse the egg-milk mixture that the bread would be dipped in with some warm, comforting flavors -- cinnamon and cardamom, a vanilla bean, and some maple syrup. To enhance the maple flavors even more, I tried making a maple-whiskey butter. It took me a few tries to get the ingredients and measurements just right. I knew that I wanted Irish whiskey, no doubt to remind me of my childhood breakfasts with my parents, but adding maple syrup to the butter made the mixture too wet. In the end, I opted to use maple extract because I could still get a strong maple flavor, but I wouldn't need to use quite as much of it. The maple extract is not as sweet as syrup, so I added a tiny amount of brown sugar to balance the flavors. A few toasted pecans added a nice crunch. This butter was divine with French Toast, but it would also be delicious on biscuits, on toast, or even on some grilled salmon filets. - cookinginvictoria
Food52 Review: We loved this French toast! The best part may be the easy to make but delicious butter. Cornflakes added a nice crunchy texture to the outside of each slice. I would recommend using challa loaf and cutting slices 1 1/2 inches thick. Yum! - Food52
Crunchy French Toast
- 1 cup cornflakes
- 1/2 cup light cream or half and half
- 1/2 cup milk (preferably not skim)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/3 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scaped out with a paring knife
- 16 thickly cut slices from day old buttery bread (I used a mix of brioche and challah). If you have no old bread on hand, dry the slices in a 250 degree oven for about ten minutes.
- 1 tablespoon butter for greasing your skillet or grilddle. (Please do not use oil -- who wants French Toast that tastes like oil?)
- Make maple-whiskey butter. This can be made ahead of time and will keep for several days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.
- Put corn flakes in a Ziploc bag and securely close bag, pressing flat so that there are no air pockets in the bag. Place bag on counter, and with a meat mallet (or a heavy rolling pin) crush the corn flakes in the bag to create fine crumbs. Don't worry if crumbs are not uniform size. Pour onto a plate or into a pie pan. Set aside.
- In a flat dish (I use a Pyrex pie pan) big enough to accommodate several slices of bread, add eggs. Whisk in maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamom, and scraped vanilla bean. Slowly add milk and half and half to mixture, whisking briskly until milk is thoroughly incorporated and egg-milk mixture looks foamy.
- Heat your skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. I use a cast-iron griddle that fits over two electric burners. I can cook 6-8 pieces of French Toast at a time.
- Add four slices of bread to egg-milk mixture, turning them, so that all surfaces are coated. Let them soak for about 30 seconds. If your bread is very dry, let slices soak for a full minute. Pick up a slice of bread. It should feel wet but not thoroughly saturated. Add each slide of bread to plate of corn flakes. With your fingers, press bread down lightly into the corn flakes crumbs and turn bread from side to side until all surfaces are coated with corn flakes. Put corn flakes-encrusted slices of bread on a large plate or cookie sheet.
- When griddle or skillet is hot but not smoking, add butter. Brush butter as it melts, with a silicone pastry brush, over surface of hot grill. Add as many pieces of battered and crumbed bread as will comfortably fit into your pan or griddle. Cook slices of bread, undisturbed, for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, then flip. Cooked side should be golden brown and look nice and crunchy. Turn heat down if crumbs on French Toast are looking blackened. Cook second side of bread for same amount of time, then remove to serving platter.
- Serve immediately with pats of maple-whiskey butter, fresh sliced strawberries or other berries (blueberries are nice) and, if you really want to gild the lily, warm maple syrup. Enjoy!
- 2 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoons maple extract
- 3/4 teaspoons whiskey (I used Irish whiskey); if you are cooking for children, substitute vanilla extract
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped, toasted pecans
- In small bowl, add butter, maple extract, whiskey, sea salt, and brown sugar. Mix with a large spoon until well combined. Add pecans and stir into butter.
- Take butter out of bowl and place on one end of a sheet of plastic wrap about 14 inches long. Fold sides of plastic wrap over butter, then wrap plastic wrap tightly around butter, forming butter into a log. Chill butter in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes, so that it firms up just slightly.