I can proudly boast my version of french toast is the best we've encountered to date. But when I saw Annie's version ahead of Valentine's Day, I paused for a moment to reconsider. The recipe is so incredibly similar to mine, I knew it was worth trying. Her recipe reminds me of one of my favorite local restaurant dishes called "Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast". This version is an improved copy which gives me one more reason to avoid going out during a busy Sunday brunch.
As with my standard recipe, I kept the stuffed french toast warm in the oven while I finished the rest of the meal. This had the happy result that the stuffing was piping hot and creamy, just like it should be. I'd highly recommend following the recipe through that step. This makes it a perfect recipe for feeding a crowd!
Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
yield: 4 servings
For the filling:
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 tbsp. sugar
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
For the toast:
4 thick slices bread, such as challah or Hawaiian bread
1 large egg
¾ cup milk
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
Maple syrup, powdered sugar and additional fresh strawberries for serving
To make the filling, combine the sliced strawberries and sugar in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside to macerate for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese until well blended. Because the strawberries make the filling so chunky, my version looked fairly lumpy after blending. Don't worry, it all melts together during baking!
Using a large round loaf of Hawaiian bread, I sliced the loaf in half and then turned each half to cut into short thick slices. Each slice was approximately 4 inches thick. Hawaiian bread (as well as challah) are light, somewhat delicate breads. You need these crazy thick slices to hold up to the chunky strawberry mixture and flipping in the frying pan.
Set your oven to preheat to 225 degrees. Place a large empty cookie sheet on the middle rack. This is where you'll store your finished fried bread until you're ready to serve.
In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, whisk together the egg and milk. Whisk in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir in the flour, cinnamon and salt and whisk until smooth.
To prepare the toast, carefully slice a pocket into the center of each slice of bread, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side. Fill the pocket of each slice of bread with some of the filling mixture.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the heated skillet and swirl to coat.
One or two at a time, dip the filled slices of bread in the egg mixture. No more than 2-5 seconds per side. Hawaiian bread immediately starts soaking up the liquid and will turn to mush if you leave it to soak for too long. Remove the bread and allow the excess batter to drip off. Place immediately into the hot skillet in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan!
Cook until light golden brown and crisp, about 1-2 minutes per side. The second side burns fast, so keep an eye on it. When fried, place inside your hot oven while you finish the meal prep. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread, adding more butter to the skillet as needed.
Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar and fresh strawberries as desired.