1.17.2011

BLOW YOUR MIND

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a dish that combined all of your favorite things in a way you never thought to try before? I will never forget the day my friend Helena took me to my now favorite, well, tied for favorite breakfast place in San Francisco. Brenda's French Soul Food is a tiny little gem hidden on Polk street. Helena took me here for breakfast on my last day living in SF. I didn't want to leave! Helena loves food like I do and we both did our happy dances as we ate breakfast.

This place is soul food with a gourmet twist. The menu is fantastic and they have a rotating menu with seasonal specials. This is the kind of place where you want to order one of everything on the menu including the watermelon sweet tea and beignet flight.

On to the moment that BLEW. MY. MIND... one of the specials for the day was a pumpkin bread french toast with maple syrup and chantilly cream. I love french toast but I had never thought to play around with the bread outside of french, challah, and your standard white bread. I know, it seems obvious to use flavored breads or other variations but I had never given it much thought until I experienced BFS. Life changing to say the least.

I re-created this dish with my own take of course. What goes better with pumpkin than bourbon?! I decided to take this dish to another level and add a bourbon vanilla bean caramel syrup, and to keep the chantilly cream because who doesn't love chantilly cream?! It sounds so much more fabulous than whipped cream. We eat with our eyes and that starts with the visual description of a dish!

I wish I could take credit for the bourbon caramel syrup but it's 100% Martha. I'll give it to her, she knows her shit! I don't think there's a way to make this sauce any better than it already is (unless you add salt, obvi). This sauce is good all by itself but it gets even better when you put it on things. I first made it with a pumpkin brioche bread pudding (yes, pumpkin again... do you not remember that post titled "obsessions"?! I wasn't exaggerating).

This dish is not for the light stomached. It is incredibly rich. Honestly, its more like dessert than breakfast but I'd eat this any time of day. The first time I had pumpkin bread french toast I was dancing throughout my meal. When I re-created the dish, the dance got even more intense. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!


Pumpkin Bread French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Syrup and Chantilly Cream


ingredients:

for the french toast:
1 small loaf pumpkin bread (see recipe: i didn't use nuts)
2 eggs
¾ c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

for the bourbon caramel:
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon

for the chantilly cream (fancy name for whip cream):
½ c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. powdered sugar
½ vanilla bean
1 t. vanilla extract

Start with the Bourbon caramel. You can make this a day in advance or a week in advance. I wish I could somehow tweak this recipe to make it better but martha NAILED it. This sauce is good by itself and great on everything, mmmmmmm...

Start by combining the sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan on medium heat. Without stirring (don't even think about giving it a little help, let it do it's thing). Let the sugar and water do it's thing until it turns a dark amber color. This will take about 20 minutes, no joke.

When the mixture is a deep amber color, reduce the heat to low. Slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't get scared if it turns into a hard ball. Give it a minute and keep stirring. It will slowly melt into a rich caramel. Next, scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and add the bean too. Add lemon juice, butter, and bourbon. Stir to combine. Your heavenly sauce is now ready to be devoured. You can let it cool and put it in a jar or tupperware container and into the fridge. To reheat, place in the microwave for about 2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.

When you're ready to blow your mind and assemble the dish, make the chantilly cream first. Beat heavy whipping cream, vanilla beans and powdered sugar on high until light, fluffy medium peaks form. TRICK: if you freeze your bowl and beaters for 5 minutes before it will whip up faster!

For the french toast: Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a shallow bowl. Slice pumpkin bread to your desired thickness and dip in egg mixture. Slap that baby on a griddle or in a frying pan over medium - medium high heat depending on your stove. Brown on both sides and get ready to assemble!

Plop 2 pieces down if you're really hungry, 1 if you have a normal appetite and drizzle that baby with caramel and plop a bit of whipping cream on top. This dish is incredibly rich. Enjoy!

improv style:
you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder or your favorite spice or flavored extract to the egg mixture before dipping the bread. not a huge pumpkin fan? banana bread french toast with a rum caramel would be fantastic! or zucchini bread, chocolate chip loaf, take your favorite and try it here! you can leave the booze out of the caramel sauce if you don't have it or substitute it for rum, brandy or a flavored liquor. try adding some pecans or walnuts for a nice crunch. you can add your favorite flavors easily to this dish!



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