This elevated French toast recipe is heavy on the comfort. The key is to get as much caramelization as possible on the challah bread slices as they're cooking. Dusting them with confectioners’ sugar before adding them to your heated pan, and in between flipping, will help you achieve this golden brown texture, which acts as a beautiful counter-balance to the saucy, sauteed apples that we spiked with honey and fresh lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil; set aside. Slice the challah into eight 3/4- to 1-inch-thick pieces. Whisk the eggs and half-and-half in a large shallow dish, then whisk in the granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved and the custard is smooth. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a fine-mesh strainer.
Add 4 slices of bread to the custard and let soak, turning once, until saturated but not falling apart, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the soaked bread, letting the excess custard drip off, then immediately dust with some of the confectioners’ sugar. Cook until the bottom of the bread is golden, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Continue to cook, flipping twice more and dusting with more confectioners’ sugar each time, until both sides are browned and caramelized, about 5 more minutes; add 1/2 tablespoon more butter when the skillet is dry. Transfer to the baking sheet. Add 1 more tablespoon butter to the skillet and repeat with the remaining bread, custard and confectioners’ sugar; add 1/2 tablespoon more butter to the skillet when needed. Transfer the baking sheet with all the French toast to the oven and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet and add 4 tablespoons butter; increase the heat to medium high. Add the apples and cardamom and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned in spots, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the honey, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons water and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the brandy and carefully tilt the pan or use a long lighter to ignite. Cook until the apples are glazed and soft but not falling apart, 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and slightly thicken the sauce.
Divide the French toast among plates. Spoon the apples and sauce on top.
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Photograph by Joel Goldberg
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