I have a bad habit of buying beautiful fresh berries and then being so excited about it that I want to savor them. So I eat one or two a day and before I know it I'm left with a pile of moldy berries. This happens more often than I would like to admit. I could eat a whole pint of raspberries, blackberries or strawberries while standing at the counter... I LOVE them. Every time I try to control my urge to gobble them up, I end up crying a little bit inside when I open up the fridge to find they've gone blue and fuzzy. This time I was determined not to let that happen!
The grocery store had some gorgeous strawberries the other day and I couldn't resist. I decided to put those babies to work at one of my favorite meals... BRUNCH! In true improv kitchen style I looked in my fridge and worked with what I had. Mascarpone, lemons, strawberries, eggs, half a loaf of challah bread leftover from a bread pudding I had made... stuffed french toast it is! HOLY MOLY was this AH-mazing!
This dish sounds complicated and fancy but it couldn't be farther from the truth! I was surprised how quickly it all came together. When you're trying to be good and not eat out, I definitely recommend this for brunch. It tastes better than most breakfast places and only took 20 minutes to make!
Strawberry + Mascarpone Stuffed Challah French Toast
yields 5 - 6 servings
1 loaf challah bread cut into 2" slices
1 pint fresh strawberries
6 oz mascarpone cheese
1 t. vanilla extract
3 t. lemon juice (about a half of a lemon squeezed) + zest of whole lemon
3 T. powdered sugar
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
butter or cooking spray for the pan
In a bowl, mix together mascarpone, vanilla, lemon juice + zest, and sugar. I used an electric mixer to make sure everything was really smooth and creamy. Place the mixture into a ziplock bag and set aside. Slice your strawberries any way you like and place in a bowl. If the berries are a little tart, you can add a little sugar over the top and macerate them (the sugar breaks down the berries a bit and creates nice juices).
Next, slice your challah into 2" thick slices. Very carefully, slice a 3" cut into the side of your bread. I do mine at the bottom of the loaf because it's most stable there. This will allow you to place the filling into the slices of bread. Before you do that though, get your dipping batter ready. Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a shallow bowl and beat together.
Now you're ready to assemble! Cut a hole in the tip of you ziplock bag so you can squeeze the filling into your bread. I stick my finger into the hole and gently make the space a little bigger so I can maximize my filling. If a little oozes out, don't worry. Everything will turn out fine. Once you've filled up your slices, dip your bread into the egg/milk mixture and griddle* those babies up! You can use any cooking method you prefer. I don't have a griddle pan so I just use 2 sauté pans with a little butter in the bottom of the dish. Cook over medium heat for about 2 - 3 minutes per side. Top with fresh sliced strawberries and any extra cheese mixture if you have it.
*If while you're cooking your french toast the sauce seems to be gushing out, just use a knife to scrape off the excess so it doesn't burn in the pan. You will still have filling on the inside, don't worry! Plus you can always use the extra mixture to place on top of the finished product! Just make sure you're not pressing your french toast with the flat end of the spatula... you want to keep as much of that sauce in there, that's the good stuff!
you can use any soft cheese berry combination you like... think raspberry goat cheese with orange zest, or blackberry cream cheese with lime zest... just keep the portions the same. you could even do banana with nutella... mix the nutella with some mascarpone and orange zest for a creamier filling... you really can't go wrong here! you can also substitute fresh berries for frozen if they're out of season or too expensive. if you do use frozen make sure you thaw them and drain before using so it doesn't make your french toast soggy!