2 New Ways to Bring Big Flavor to French Toast

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French toast: bread, eggs, milk or cream. That’s it, right? Right … technically. But the world of French toast goes beyond those basic ingredients, and what results when you add even more flavors and textures — or even dress up the three staple ingredients — can be downright indulgent and worthy of both breakfast and dessert.

On Saturday's “secrets” episode of The Kitchen, the cast revealed little-known tricks for upgrading some of your favorite dishes and common pantry items in new, bold ways. Enter French toast. By using extra-special bread, making a creamy custard with warm spices and finishing the dish with sweet toppings, the co-hosts transformed this go-to dish into a next-level winner.

The secret to Marcela Valladolid’s Cafe de la Olla French Toast is the challah bread. Sweet and moist, this soft bread is packed with plenty of rich flavor on its own. She opts to cut it into thick slices to make sure there’s room for a pocket that she stuffs with chocolate-pecan filling. .3

When it comes to the egg mixture, follow Marcela’s lead and add a pinch of fragrant cinnamon for gentle warmth in the silky custard; the flavor will seep into the bread during its pre-cooking bath. Maple syrup is a go-to topping, of course, but Marcela goes one step further. She brings the ingredients that are inside the golden-brown French toast — the chopped pecans and Mexican chocolate — to the outside of it as well, by pairing it with sweet syrup.

Geoffrey Zakarian, too, uses challah bread, in his quick-fix recipe for an easy French Toast “Jubilee,” though he flavors the cream-based custard with a splash of almond extract and a bit of cardamom. This time you can skip the syrup topping, as GZ’s rum-spiked sauce is laced with a bit of maple syrup already. His sweet, buttery mixture is inspired by the timeless dessert of cherries jubilee and features maraschino cherries, along with fresh lemon juice for bright flavor.

Tune in to The Kitchen on Saturdays at 11a|10c.