Filed under the very large category of Things Pretty Much Every New Yorker Already Knew About But Was News To Me (don’t bother trying to hail a cab after noon on a Friday, filthy stoops are irresistible for the chill-minded set, etc.), the City Bakery on 18th Street has some astoundingly good French toast on Sunday mornings. It’s also astoundingly expensive, as things will go at a bakery with sweets like you can’t find anywhere else and an iron grip on its original recipes. Their version is a ridiculously thick wedge of battered bread with a caramelized lid that requires no syrup or other accompaniment — well, except maybe some crispy salty strips of bacon — to make it sing.
Of course, I’m not trying to make their French toast, I would leave that to their expertise. I instead set out to make the French toast I began fantasizing about the second I had my first bite, a crème brûlée set within a thick slice of bread, one that would keep the burnt sugar lid but gild the caramel lilly even further and set it on a base that was more bread pudding-like than, well, honestly, imperfectly soaked/dry-centered French toast. (The sole City Bakery French toast flaw, in my opinion. Blasphemy, I know!) And I knew exactly how I’d do it. One thing I’ve learned when making French toast over the years is that as tempting as really, crazy thick French toast is, no matter how low you keep the pan temperature and how long you keep it on the stove, it’s very hard to cook it until it is set in the middle before burning the tops and bottoms. The solution is baking, which is brilliant in that the center is guaranteed to set and you’re guaranteed to enjoy cooking it more because it doesn’t require you to stand over a griddle dipping and flipping slice after slice for surely long than an entire tray of the same needs to bake. I could add “no butter” as a benefit but, come on, we’re making crème brûlée French toast here; this is no time to feign an interest in our arteries.
The snafu me and my poor little middle fingertip — leading to countless, “Look what I hurt today!” humor attempts with my husband later; yes, you’d be correct in guessing that I’m the only person around here who finds me funny — was in the burnt sugar lid. It being creme brûlée after all, I had wanted to torch it, but the uneveness of the top of the toast led the sugar to pool in the middle and the edges to, uh, erupt briefly into a match-sized flame and me to question whether my smoke detector even contained batteries. That plan swiftly scrapped, I decided to melt sugar the old-fashioned way, in a small pot on the stove. And look, I know caramel stresses people out and that’s why we start it with water and thermometers, but none of that is needed here. Add heat to sugar, give it time, and it will melt 100 percent of the time and by the time it is fully melted, it will be the color of honey. Once it is, act quickly but still not foolishly (i.e. getting your middle, or any finger in the 300 degree sugar’s path) pouring it over each slice and quickly use a butter knife or small offset spatula to spread it thinly over the tops. Too thick, you’ll have what my first go at this did — a hard candy lid, not that anyone complained between crunching smiles — but spread thin, you’ll have, hands down, the best French toast I have ever made. Now, do right by your mama and make this happen on Sunday.
One year ago: Leek Bread Pudding, Oatmeal Pancakes and Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash
Two years ago: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Three years ago: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
Four years ago: Corniest Corn Muffins and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Crème Brûlée French Toasts
Makes 6 servings
1 loaf unsliced white bread, brioche or rich bread of your choice
1 1/3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur or 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Cut bread into 1 1/2-inch thick, generous slices; a 9-inch loaf should yield 6 slices. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar, salt, liqueur, and vanilla extract, if using. If using a vanilla bean, halve it lengthwise and scrape the pulp into a small dish. Whisk vanilla bean with one tablespoon of custard, then whisk in another and a third tablespoon, then pour the vanilla bean-custard mixture back into the main batter. This avoids having vanilla bean clumps that don’t disperse in your batter. Don’t you hate that?
Preheat oven to 325. Arrange bread slices on the smallest rimmed tray that will fit them in one layer (encourages maximum absorption) pour custard over slices. Allow them to absorb the custard for 30 minutes, turning the slices over at one point to ensure they’re soaking it up evenly. [Do ahead: You can also soak them overnight in the fridge. No need to flip them if so.]
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer custard-soaked slices to prepared sheet, arranging them with a smidge of space between each to avoid making one French mega-toast. Flipping them halfway through if you wish, bake French toast slices for 30 to 35 minutes, until a slim knife inserted into the center of a slice and twisted ever-so-slightly does not release any wet custard. Keep warm until ready to serve.
To caramelize the tops: Either leave toasts on their baking sheet, or transfer to a serving platter. Have ready a small offset spatula and a potholder or trivet to rest your caramel pot on.
Melt remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a small, heavy, completely dry saucepan over moderate heat, stirring with a small spoon or fork until fully melted and the color of honey. Move it over to the potholder or trivet you’d set up and working quickly, spoon one generous tablespoon caramel over your first slice of toast, spread it thinly and evenly with your offset spatula and repeat with the remaining toasts. Because your caramel will continue to deepen slightly in color (veering towards almost-too-toasty) as you work, it’s best to work quickly but carefully. Let no fingers or forearms be harmed in the melted sugar’s path and should a single drop land on the counter or on your towel or on the rim of the plate, do not swipe it. Just leave it until it cools.
[Hot water will melt all hardened caramel and make your clean up job easy. Simply soak your pot/spoon/spatula and all will melt off.]
Serve with fresh berries and if you’re feeling extra fancy, loosely whipped cream. We don’t find that it needs any maple syrup.
Alternative top-caramelizing method: A really obvious question here would be “But would the broiler work?” The method would be to sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and let the broiler do the torching for you. However, my broiler doesn’t work. Never has, so I cannot test this. But, if it’s anything like my attempt (explained in the post) to use a blowtorch, I’m not feeling overly confident about it because the unevenness of the toasts leads to edges singeing before the sugar fully melts. But if you try this method, please report back in the comments as to how it went. I’m sure plenty of folks would prefer to avoid melting sugar.
325 comments on crème brûlée french toasts
Your poor finger! We always have challah French toast on Saturday mornings, and I do believe this week’s will have a caramelized top. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
Whoa, that sounds ultra rich! And delicious.
I have a rich man’s brioche recipe that this would be perfect for!
We recently ate a sublime baguette French toast… I think this would carry over nicely. Beautiful work! Love how thick the slices are!
Ohhhhh my goodness. This looks UNREAL. I think it’s safe to say this will be on the Mother’s Day menu for Sunday morning…and if my mother has other breakfast plans, I’ll just eat her slices too.
Wowzers! That looks unbelievably good. Dessert? Supper? Brunch? I’d eat it all day every day!
I can completely imagine how this well taste and I’m imagining very good things. What a genius idea; I’m trying to think of other things that I can brulee now!
Happy Mothers Day :)
Have a lovely mother’s day Deb.
I love City Bakery, such great quality stuff……the French toast looks decadent!
It is wrong for me, a married woman, to ask you, another married woman, to marry me over this french toast.
Instead, I will make it on Sunday for the most decadent dinner (breakfast for dinner rules).
Baking French Toast!?! Why has this not occurred to me? This is how you can make it in BATCHES, so the cook gets to have breakfast with the rest of the crowd. Aye Carumba, what an idea.
I’m not so sure about the top-caramelizing part, as that much sweetness starts to make my teeth ache, but I’m for sure going to try the baking part. My go-to French Toast is thickly sliced apple-cinnamon bread. I think the baking part will make this a bigger family hit than it already was.
Re, the sweetness — The caramel on top is actually very burnt sugar-ish, as in, quite bittersweet, like the lid of a creme brulee. If you’re going to skip it, you’d probably want to dial the sugar up to 1/2 cup. If you like your French toast with maple syrup, however, and thus it needs to be less sweet, keep the sugar where it is.
Deb, in case you didn’t already know it- you’re a genius. I love that you try it all out for us and give us the best way possible to make this without the need for a torch ;) these look so good I don’t know how I’ll refrain from leaving work early to go try my hand at it.
AMAZING. Cannot wait to try this! I predict the family will go bonkers and the bar on French Toast will have been raised.
Sounds perfectly sugary! If I make this, I think I’d also cover it in strawberries. But probably only so as to mask the sugar and delude myself into thinking I was being health-conscious..
That bread itself looks amazing. I can’t imagine what it tastes like with all that added goodness!
Ack. Did not find obligatory cute kidlet picture! Am I the only one who is missing it?
This looks amazing! I’m forwarding this to my hubby… maybe this will be my mother’s day breakfast :)
I don’t know how I didn’t happen upon this until now but it looks insanely good! Also I’m a word girl and adore your writing as much as the recipes and photos. As a bonus, your commenters are by and large so kind and witty! I want to have coffee with like ALL of them. I just spent much too long perusing the comment section—which I often do when I see a new post on Facebook.
Oh my goodness. Brioche french toast in all of its eggy, milky, syrup-y glory is one of my most favorite foods. And if it’s inspired by City Bakery (creator of the pretzel croissant <3 <3 <3) then it has to be good!
Hello Sunday morning. We are absolutely making this. Divine. And if you happen to figure out a way to recreate their pretzel croissants we’d be super grateful…!
My what perfect timing. Baking french toast is brilliant. I love the bold thick slices that you use. And for the crunchy sugar shell, this is why you are so freaking brilliant. A little splash of cream over the top and this little lady will be curling my toes and squealing with excitement.
Gorgeous. I can tell from those little strings of sugar that hang off that the top is delightfully cripsy. I also love how you have just the simplest and most restraint of garnishs atop. I’m a huge fan of baking my french toast, it’s much less fussy and I agree with you that it leads to the toast being perfectly cooked through. However I generally exercise little restraint and top mine with some decadent kind of crumble of strussel.
My jaw is on the floor… Brilliant! Perfect for a mother’s day brunch… you are making me HUNGRY! :)
Yes to the broiler! I make this (often upon request by friends and family). Our ingredients are just about identical but our processes (processis?) are totally different, I love the idea of baking them. I do mine stovetop with the skillet and soak for less time (I’m not a fan of gooey bread dishes). I make sure there is lots of butter in the pan, enough so that it sizzles around the edges of the bread as it cooks. The broiler version works well if your slices are fairly even. And for those that don’t want to go there–I spoon a tsp of sugar on the unbaked side before I flip it and it self caramelizes. Tart berries and a scoop of creme fraiche help balance the sweetness too.
THIS LOOKS AMAZING. I love creme brulee and I love french toast, put them together and it’s heaven. I’ll definitely give this a try soon!
These look absolutely incredible. Your pictures are so lovely!
I love this version, I’ve seen a couple pop up across the web recently. I tried one with the broiler method but I found my french toast to be not as moist, I’m eager to try your method!
Can’t wait to give this a try!
This looks A.M.A.Z.I.N.G
Totally decadent, fantastic way to start the weekend.
Ugh, it’s crazy that a person who cooks the way you do has a broiler that does not work….this looks delish, btw.
Kathryn — I know! But we’re too lazy to move. :)
I love your other french toast recipe, but I find that I’m rarely motivated at night to throw it together [in order to let it absorb, like you suggest]. I can’t wait to try this one! Waiting 30 minutes is much more conducive to my lazy schedule. Plus, I’m even more excited by the post because your breakfast food is always DELICIOUS. You can do no wrong. :]
Excelent! I love crème brûlée (more than crema catalana, and this last is from my region… jejeje), the combination with french toast will be delicious! Congratulations!!
very good photo! :)
This French Toast looks unbelievable! I need to plan a brunch so I get an excuse to make it!
Oh man. This looks great!! I’ll be cooking it for my girl friend’s brunch weekend in a couple weeks! Oh yum!
Deb. You just blew my mind. I thought you should know.
Well..this really is a bread pudding of sorts, the bread’s just not cut up! I love the idea of the caramelized topping on french toast. I might try it with my maple sugar on one slice to see if caramelizing it does anything to the flavor. We love our french toast with some spicy breakfast sausage. Mmmm mmm!
i think i might die from sheer bliss if i try to eat this. what an amazing idea.
This makes me wish I was going to be with my mom for Mother’s Day. She loves creme brulee – this would have been the perfect breakfast!
I also make this “french toast” and the name is here “pain perdu” (in English : lost bread :lol:)
My process is different : instead of baking in a oven, I bake it in a pan with a lot of salt butter !! It’s like” le Petit Jesus en culotte de velours”
This looks amazing!!! Must try it! Soon.
grand marnier in french toast? i am SO down.
YES! BAKING the french toast! You may have saved my marriage. My husband likes the centers of his toast *very dry*, so he just barely lets the tops soak any milk and you end up with slightly eggy bread with a totally boring center. And since French Toast is his go-to breakfast-in-bed-for-mothers-day, I may have to slip him this recipe in a totally supportive, not at all bitchy or complaining about his dry French Toast kind of way.
Now THIS is the way I want to start off my mornings. Of course, it would help if I was sitting outside a cafe in Paris but I’ll take what I can get :)
Love that last pic with the visible sugar strings hanging off the top of the toast!
Dang. I just posted about pain perdu … and ya had to go and one up me. ;) I also believe the orange-flavored liqueur is essential.
Yes PLEASE! I need this for breakfast every day for the rest of my life!
Any chance you can try to make the City Bakery chocolate chip cookies. Best. Ever.
Suzanne — David Leite’s chocolate chip cookies for the New York Times are as City Bakery-ish as I’ve tried. I know that I’m in a distinct minority here, but I’m not fond of CB’s chocolate chip cookies. Way too sweet for me, always greasy… But they do have an excellent toffee flavor, I’ll hand them that.
so that’s how it’s made! I had this at a restaurant once and never thought to ask how its was made until one day I realized… I didn’t know how to make creme brulee french toast! so now I know the trick… soaking and baking.
Why haven’t I thought of this… this may have to happen in my house this weekend.
As far as the baking goes… definitely the way to go. Because I like that buttery pan-browned-ness to my french toast, I use Alton Brown’s cooking method: cook each side stove-top for 2-3 minutes to golden brown, then toss the whole lot into the oven to let it cook all the way through (similar to method to chicken or steak). Perfectly browned on the outside, perfectly done on the inside… and I’m sure with the addition of the brulee top, perfect all around!
Ooooooh. I just bought some brioche bread. I think we might need to make this on Sunday. Thanks. And Happy Mother’s day!
MOUTH WATERING DELICIOUS LOOKING! Wish I had a slice right about now! Being a piro type would be fun to try 1 of those mini torchie gizmo’s. But I’m almost an expert with turning sugar into caramel in a pot – so this recipe looks amazing!
Mmm, this looks so good! And I’m wondering whether I could cook all my french toast in the oven. Love the idea of it all coming out at once!
If my husband still wants me to mother his children, he WILL be making this for me on Sunday!
This is almost exactly how my mom used to make me French toast! It looks fantastic. My favorite bread to do it on is challah, but brioche is a very close 2nd. :)
This is the thickest French toast I’ve ever seen! My mom, sister (both mamas) and I (not a mama) would LOVE it as we’re all suckers for crème brûlée and bread.
sadly for all of us, neither mine nor my husband’s mama lives anywhere near within breakfast-on-mother’s-day distance … but happily for husband, it’s his birthday tomorrow, and there are few things on earth he enjoys more than BREAKFAST (and given that his wife is the un-morningest person ever, a breakfast like this will be a rare treat indeed). thanks! :]
Whoa! Delicious! I love french toast made with really thick bread. I need you to come make that for me.
Wow, this has got to be the best idea for French toast I’ve seen!
Oh gosh, Deb. You’re a genius. I LOVE it.
The bread. The bread! The beautiful bread! This looks phenomenal. But then again, doesn’t everything on your blog?
There’s a restaurant in Austin that’s known for its carrot cake French toast. Fact: French toast/dessert fusions are always a good idea.
Deb oh Deb. There goes the diet! Making this tomorrow!!!
If I die tomorrow, please let me have this for breakfast before passing.
I am so, so sad now that we cannot do a brunch for my mom or mother-in-law this weekend, because I don’t think I’m going to be able to persuade anyone that we ought to have creme brulee french toast for supper, and this sounds so perfect.
Deb, it never ceases to amaze me how you can take a simply thing (like French toast or asparagus) and turn it into a creative, delicious, “I need to make this” dish. And your descriptions, “gild the caramel lilly”, I love it. Yeah, I have made that same finger joke to my husband and he just shakes his head, why is that?
You should try a savory french toast sometime. Astonishingly good, and still goes with maple syrup.
OK, here’s my answer to what I’ll make my mom for brunch on Sunday. Here is also an excuse to dash to Amy’s Bread today (or the greenmarket) for some top brioche or country bread. (She will never let me take her anywhere, so it’s coming to her.) How about a couple salmon croquettes alongside this?
ooooo!! i’ve never seen baked french bread before. this looks amazing! i love the fat slices.
Deb – I’ve been admiring this fantastic blog since I got hip to it last summer. Just wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day! I also send a Mothers Day shout out to your Mom for creating such a great cook!
For getting the vanilla from the bean to disperse (and to be sure to get it all out of the pod) rub the seeds with some of the sugar, and use some sugar to “scrape” out the inside of the pod. I wish that I were so clever, but I think that it was a suggestion from Cook’s Illustrated (which is always so clever, but always makes you get at least one more item dirty).
I’m a native NYer too and also just discovered City Bakery within the past year. I especially like the salad bar.
Oh.my.gosh. I am in absolute heaven, this looks so delicious!! I must make this very soon.
Thank you for sharing this recipe! A fantastic variation on the “breakfast in bed” theme, just in time for Mother’s Day. My egg dishes were getting kind of washed up, anyway.
Oh. My. Goodness. Finishing off my last bites right now! I rushed home and made it for dinner. I’ve been living in Greece for the past three months and this is quite officially The Best Thing I’ve Cooked Here. Possibly the best thing I’ve cooked in the past year! So easy to whip up! Usually I’m not a big fan of adding orange to things, but I think because the citrus here is so amazing, it tastes perfect. It was very easy to scale down to serve just one person, too. Honestly I can’t wait to make this for all of my European friends! Thanks for sharing and making a foreign country feel a bit more like home (which is normally the US for me).
This is beautiful! What a unique and stunning idea. You are always so fabulous and this site is so mouthwatering and your kid is so CUTE! :D Ok. Done. Now, about inviting me over for breakfast…… ;)
This looks absolutely incredible!! What a great idea for Mother’s Day.
My dad is going to LOOOVVVEE this too!!
It looks amazing and beautiful.
I LOVE THOSE TOASTS!
Years ago there was a restaurant in Waterbury, VT The Mist Grill that did a Creme Brulee French Toast. It was a Baguette french toast, then topped with custard and bruleed. I dream of it still, but I think you just made it come true!!
We do Challah bread French Toast often, but I think we need to take it up a notch! Off to put in my Mother’s Day request :)
Um, so, yeah. I think I might be making french toast for dinner now.
Deb, this recipe is out of this world. I’m in love with it. Can’t wait to try it this Sunday. Since I’m far far away from NY ( South America) didn’t even know crème brûlée french toasts exist!!! Have a happy mother’s day and thanks for the recipe it is the perfect one to celebrate it. Can’t wait for your book to be released!!
This looks DELISH!! Also in the last pic is that a hair I see? Or am I dreaming? NEVERTHELESS it looks glorious xx
Shabna — Not hair! (Ew.) The caramel is thready at that stage.
Bread I used — I use a Balthazar brioche loaf. Whole Foods sells them, not just the bakery. They’re incredibly rich and taste like they’ve been dipped in butter. Unfortunately, because the ones at WF have been packaged for larger-scale sales, they have a nutrition label on them with all sorts of things I didn’t want to know, like calorie count. Amusingly, they agree with this recipe that 1 1/2 inches is the perfect serving thickness. Anyway, I bought this bread because I could get it but I really prefer a plain white bread for something like this, or a less buttery challah loaf. The Sally Lunn bread would be amazing here. It’s not that brioche isn’t delicious, it’s just that the custard can hold its own without it.
Oh, have mercy. Can’t decide which is more gorgeous, the French toast or that hunk-of-adorableness lounging on the stoop! He is getting so big!
YES. THIS. I was first exposed to this brilliant innovation at Corner Shop Cafe on Broadway and Bleeker a couple of years ago. http://www.cornershopcafe.com/ The creme itself was incredible, with the bonus of some chewy crusty french toast on the outside (made with french white bread).
And now we have a recipe right here. You have made my weekend!
I’m having some trouble understanding the failure of the brulee design. I recognize that the bread is uneven, but couldn’t you torch at a very low setting in order to avoid singeing anything? … but then, I typically think that we should torch as many things as possible. :D
… will try some things out and report back. Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.
Good grief! I just finished up a post about deep dish brioche french toast, and you dangle this in front of me!! Looks like the week ahead holds a lot of baked bread!
Any suggestions you might have for recreating the french toast I enjoyed that seems first baked deep-dish style, and then sliced and toasted [??] I would very much appreciate!
Perfect timing. ;) . . . I’ll drop Jacob a hint.
I want to make this for mother’s day so badly! Too bad my mother is 600 miles away, and I’ll be alone all day. Le sad. I’ll make it for myself anyway.
This looks incredible Deb, though maybe a little involved for breakfast. I like the simple and quick stuff myself, but I would be over the moon if someone MADE this for me, ha! Thanks for sharing.
Oh Deb, this looks divine! My sympathies on the burnt finger and the caramel–I did the same thing recently when I made this tofu with caramel sauce (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Panfried-Tofu-with-Asian-Caramel-Sauce-238093) The rather-delicious recipe caused me to I burn the living daylights out of the roof of my tongue AND first finger.
This is some decadent french toast! Decadent french toast that I was planning on making for Mother’s day.. until my boyfriend saw what I was reading and demanded I make it tomorrow. Men, smeh.
I adore City Bakery and all their wicked delights. But you are correct that it can cost a hefty penney. This is a great alternative for those lazy Sunday mornings when I just want to stay in my pajamas, make some French toast, and share some extra crispy bacon with the dog. Thanks for sharing!!
Of course you did this. :D French toast + creme brulee = heaven.
Oh. My. Word. It’s is 7:30 pm (I am pregnant) and I am doing the math to figure out if I started baking right now, how long it would take me to make this (considering I would have to bake the bread from scratch)…
Pretty sure I’d be daughter of the year if I made this Sunday. Gotta get to it :)
French toast is one of the simplest and best things in the world and you made it even better. What I’d give to have a slice or two right at this moment..
I would like to eat this now please! What to do? Also, we have NO good bakery bread in the area (rural area). Panera is the nearest and I don’t think they have a brioche or egg bread. But I have requested this for Mother’s Day dinner! Oh – and we will have freshly picked strawberries to go with it!
Wow! I was thinking Sally Lunn bread would be the perfect vehicle for this.
This sounds like the trick I learned in college: Make french toast with condensed milk instead of regular. OMG! Even with crappy sandwich white, it’s heavenly. This is much more grown-up, of course.
I’ve been making this for years – but we only have it on special days – like Christmas or Thanksgiving morn…your version is a bit different from mine but I’m sure the end result is the same…5 lbs. up on the scale! One more thing…we had the Asparagus Salad for dinner tonight…absolutely amazing – thanks SO much for passing that one along – it’s going to be at the top of my list for a very long time! xo, Nan
I’ve made your baked french toast, which was a Godsend when having a Brunch party (Leave it in the oven, voila!- baked french toast which served 8!) This version of french toast sounds rich and decadent and so sophisticated, yum. I like the idea for spreading a thin glaze of caramel over the top- I can never get enough of the brulee crunch!
the melted sugar sounds good, i need to find a good loaf of bread to make this.
Ohhhhhhhhhh! Yummmmm! This post is making me really hungry and extremely excited to try this out! Thank you so much for posting this! Have a happy Mother’s Day!
Oh my gosh, this looks like it is to die for! Especially topped with fresh berries, yum!
Oh my goodness, this looks luciously good :) I have already chosen my mums day brekkie but now i am thinking i should have two :)
I’m going to make this for my mother’s Mother’s Day brunch – looks really good!
Don’t these look yummy!
I have always used thick bread, soaked the slices in the custard overnight, browned in a pan, finished them in the oven and served with blueberries and real maple syrup. I never thought of brûlée french toasts ! Cheaper than maple syrup imported from Canada or the US too. (I’m a yank in Australia) I’m in food lust.
This looks absolutely amazing. I’m drooling all over my computer!!
Wow! These look amazing! I’m going to have to make these for my mom!
These sound wonderful! Love this recipe.
looks like Mother’s Day brunch is all planned and I think I have reached the point of no return for french toast awesomeness :)
Oh! I can probably use your Sally Lunn Bread for this! Wonderful. I also just wanted to say that I really love your recipes! They’re very dependable. I rarely eye a recipe from Smitten Kitchen thinking ‘I wonder if this will work or not’ I don’t think I would have even tried making bread if it wasn’t your recipe and it worked perfectly!
OMG, this looks absolutely awesome! I shall be making some soon.
And I’ll definetly hurt something, I always do. And I always try to make it funny (I actually start laughing whenI wound myself) And no one will find it funny, so I’ll laugh at my own jokes, I always do =P
In french the name of this is : Pain perdu :)
We just had French Toast today… wish I’d seen this before I did the whole flip it in the non-stick pan. I usually add the sugar to the bread while it’s soaking and it always over caramelizes… and sometimes burns the edges of my toast! Thank you for this recipe!
What a great recipe! Here in Austria we have no vanilla extract but maybe I can dissolve some of the vanille Zucker in milk prior to soaking. My sympathies for your poor finger. We used our old ski-wax torch for creme brûlée, years ago! Worked great but you had to stand a bit far away. Ha!
I’m usually not a french toast fan due to too many soggy experiences but I’m going to have to try this. I typically will make french toast sticks so they can be fried on all sides – never thought of baking the toast – thanks for the great idea, and as always great blog! Have you ever thought of doing an occasional video blog?
Typo alert :) – 2nd paragraph, 4th line from bottom – flipping slice after slice for surely long – s/b longer :)
WOW. Simply wow.
These creme brulee french toasts look absolutely amazing. I need to try this recipe!
I had the most amazing creme brulee at this restaurant in San Francisco called Kuleto’s. They’re an Italian restaurant but did the most amazing creme brulee. I think I have a picture of it here: http://aprilialove.com/2011/05/san-francisco-night-four/
I am definitely bookmarking this recipe to try later this week – I can’t wait!
Oh la la … this looks like a marvelous mother’s day treat… I’ll print it out for my family. A fabulous spin on the luscious and comforting “pain perdu.”
I must be dreaming! <3
Perfect Mother’s day Breakfast in bed for mom.
Oh la la! This looks sooooo delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just the thing for a special treat.
This looks fantastic and it just made the cast of my Mother’s Day show! Thanks!
Now, I would like your advice on some serious baking matter: I want to make an ice cream cake. What should I use as the “cake” component? I was thinking either Genoese or devil’s food cake, either imbibed in syrup (perhaps espresso-infused, but that’s another decision altogether!) before stacking. What would you recommend?
This looks so good! Is that distinctive yellow wrapper in the background from Balthazar?
I polished off dozens of those brioche loaves while pregnant with my first. Scary how much of that stuff I ate!
My stomach started rumbling this morning as soon as I saw this page!
Beautiful post! [as always}
this looks absolutely delicious on the occasion of mothers day sounds like a great post
Stupendous. When we were in NY last year I walked right past City Bakery (looking for it) and missed it.. not sure how that happened…
Sooo excited to try these!
Love you humor, and most certailnly love this. my husband would go over th emoon if I made it.
I love creme brulee and French toast. Never eat French toast since I don’t need the calories but I do have part of a loaf of brioche bread in my freezer left over from when I made my Eggs Rothko. So, I will be trying this recipe on my husband. He’s like Mikey (if you remember) he will eat anything. — Sherry
My daughter lives in NY city and brings home a challah when she hops on metro north for a visit. We leave it out sliced on Saturday night to make a gorgeous french toast treat for Sunday morning. French toast is the first thing I learned how to cook from my grandmother Tilly, when I was small enough to have to stand on a chair. Thanks for this elegant recipe….this will be a fun adventure for the girls and I to make together some Sunday soon!
You think the French call anything “French Toast”?
True about the taxi situation, but even worse from 4-6 pm when they are changing over from daytime to nighttime shifts. To bad you you did not hop around the corner to ABC Kitchen. They have a good brunch and love that the plates, cutlery and serving containers (coffee urns) come from straight from the store. P.S. Your french toast looks 10x better than ones I have seen around the city.
Well, how fortuitous to check my e-mail as my bread is soaking in the custard! Thanks!
Delish! One of the best things about City Bakery–in addition to that ridiculous French toast–is its location across the street from Books of Wonder, the incredible children’s bookstore. City Bakery outings followed immediately by a visit to Books of Wonder have become a frequent and beloved ritual with my little nephew. I wonder if you and Jacob have discovered that place together yet??
Have you had the crème brûlée chocolate from Kee’s in the West Village? Uh mazing! This French toast looks glorious.
Oh my. Be still my heart. Deb, you continue to out-do yourself and up the ante for our cooking. Everyone, listen to Deb. Hot melted sugar is evil, super dangerous. My suggestion: No little ones in the kitchen. Take a bowl, fill with water, add lots of ice. If you do burn your sweet little pinkie, plunk it immediately into the iced water. Yes, you guessed right. I speak from experience — painful experience.
p.s. Jacob, you are too cute for words. Love your fashion sense — Deb, where do you find Madras shorts for babies? Have to have them. Next, Sperry Top-Siders and pink polo shirt.
Wow. I am making this for dinner because I cannot wait until breakfast!
This looks positively sinful! In an awesome, nirvana-on-a-plate type way.
I love french toast almost as much as my family, okay thats an exaggeation but it is a serious passion. I make a similar recipe but sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top beforeflipping andit carmalizes nicely. Just use liberal amounts of butter. I hope my mommy breakfast in bed looks as yummy tomorrow!
Holy smokes. That’s all I can type until I wipe all this drool off my keyboard.
Wow that looks absolutely delicious! I’ve heard of people making french toast with banana bread, I wonder if it would taste could with this recipe? Perhaps it would be a little too sweet? (Not that I’m one to complain about sweets!)
Do I dare make this a requested breakfast for my five teenaged kids to make for me for Mother’s Day tomorrow – or do I stick with tried and true crepes they’ve been making for me for years ? hmmmm. Maybe I’ll make a batch tonight and let them off easy – just reheat tomorrow – All I know is I’m having these soon !!!!!!!!!!
This was amazeballs. Thank you for the perfect, pre-Mother’s Day brunch. We even took your advice with the salty bacon. Nom nom nom.
Like candy for my eyes.
Perfect for Mother’s Day brunch! I definitely want to try this recipe out. In my book, everything creme brulee is worth trying :)
i always love your recipes but this one i MUST MUST MUST try!! combines two of my favorite things!
Oh wow! That’s a big and thick french toast! Yum! Perfect for mother’s day breakfast!
Once again you’ve blown me away. Will be trying this with the raising challah that’s calling my name. Miss seeing a photo of Mr. Punem. Nothing like creme brulee french toast and seeing that punem in the morning. Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.
s/b raisin challah….
BRILLIANT. Simply brilliant.
As some others have mentioned, this would indeed be perfect for Mother’s Day…(or any day!)
On a somewhat related note, I once tried milk chocolate with a creme brulee filling. It was so strange…yet lovely!
Your photos are amazing. What camera do you use? This recipe looks absolutly divine by the way…
Hi from New Caledonia (french),
Just in addition to your so tasty recipe, in french, the name is “pain perdu” (out of date bread….), made with any kind of bread and the harder, the better.
Just go on with all your delicious recipes !
Caramel burns are lethal and painful – I think you need a lot of this French toast to soothe the pain. Great plan.
i have to say, i thought i had been using the most amazing creme brulee french toast recipe already…. from Gourmet, a while back: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Creme-Brulee-French-Toast-15213
although i like the idea of your individual toasts, much more snazzy & elegant! but i am also lazier, and the epicurious recipe actually manages to create a very tasty caramelized layer simply by combining brown sugar & corn syrup. not QUITE the crisp you seem to be going for, but still incredibly delicious and no sugar burns!
Wow, from this pictures told me this recipes was very delicious. I think everybody look this will agree what I’m trying to say:-) Especially pictures no. 4, I can’t wait to eat this. isk isk isk
Oh my stars! French toast grown-up style…delicious!
Thank you for the decadent recipe! My family made it for mother’s day breakfast. The caramelized sugar topping was oh, so good!
Oh. My. God. I woke up early today to make this for my husband and daughter (I know right, I should win a freaking mother of the year award :p) with a side of pea meal bacon and it was to die for. For serious.
I almost forgot about mother’s day but luckily I had this to fall back on! I made the caramel topping into dulce de leche which was equally delicious but easier to manage…
if i remember correctly from my brief stint working there, City Bakery makes that toast in a giant piece of restaurant equipment whose name I don’t know (something like the ’tilted skillet’ described by Bill Buford in Heat. Imagine about 40 fat slices bubbling in butter and sugar in there…it was an impressive sight.
Thanks for giving us the perfect Mother’s Day Breakfast. I used cinnamon swirl brioche from our local bakery, and it turned out delicious. Happy Mother’s Day to you, momma!
Hands down one of my best memories of childhood is my Nana’s french toast which she would cook for me before school when she came to visit. I would come down early while she was still reading her “novels” and she would immediately start bustling around using all the same things my mom used to make French toast but somehow creating an entirely different meal altogether – the toast was utterly creamy inside with a crunch from cinnamon sugar on the outside. HEAVEN! I have tried for 35 years to duplicate it to no avail.
Happy Mothers Day to all! Deb – You’ve got a hipster on your hands!
This was amazing. I made it for my wife this morning and it was a definite hit. This will be going in the rotation (not too often as it is obviously on the decadent side). Thank you for the winning Mother’s Day breakfast.
I made this for myself for Mother’s Day this morning :) It was DELICIOUS!! Everyone loved it. It really is like eating creme brule for breakfast, it’s that sweet, but I have absolutely NOTHING against eating creme brule for breakfast!!
I am wondering if I had the heat too hot, or my little pan wasn’t heavy enough, because my sugar turned dark before it completely melted. In the end it meant that I had a few clumps of sugar in my caramel topping, so it wasn’t as pretty, but other than that it was perfect! I used plain unsliced white bread from the bakery.
Oh I meant to add, I might try the broiler method next time, but I’d do it like I do my cinnamon toast – make a paste out of butter and sugar and broil. It does turn into a nice crunchy caramel topping like this, and if you don’t get it too close to the broiler, I think you can keep it from scorching.
These toasts look heavenly. A perfect breakfast treat for Mother’s Day :) Happy Mother’s Day Deb!
i made it, it was amazing, but i don’t think we’ll be eating for the rest of the day. i may be sinking into a diabetic coma as i type this…
daYAM. this looks fantastic. im so glad you tackled all the little difficulties of making caramel and cooking it all the way through so i didn’t have to! you’re my hero!
I was served a plate with two slices of creme brulee French toast ala Smittinkitchen….with thick maple bacon…strawberries piled on top…and coffee…omg! it was amazingly wonderful..the sweet and creamy but bit of crunchy in each bite…thank you for sharing this amazing recipe.
I made this for my mom, father and husband today (Mother’s Day) and it was hands down the BEST french toast any of us had ever had! Thank you!!!
By the way, I topped with barely sweetened whipped cream and super juicy orange segments. Fabulous!
deb, thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this recipe. i made this today for my mom, mother-in-law, and nana (and all of our respective husbands) today for Mother’s Day brunch. what a hit! i don’t think i’ll ever make french toast in a pan again! i doubled the recipe and served it up with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries…aaaand some brown sugar bacon on the side. it was a cinch to prepare, and even more delicious than i imagined it would be! i think the moms and grandmoms are already planning to come again next year! thank you deb. i hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!
Hi Deb–Any chance you could shared with us where you bought that loaf of bread??
Made this for my mom this morning and it was DELICIOUS!!!! Thanks for the great recipes!
I LOVED this. It was absolutely amazing, and I’m not normally a french toast kind of person! unreal, simply unreal!
Wow – I just polished off a delish mother’s day meal, but I’m already fantasizing about this for breakfast – or dessert- or – or
I’m in love with that platter! Where is it from? Thanks deb :)
karen — The platter is from Macy’s and it was really really inexpensive to boot (it’s huge and feels heavy).
Anna — I talk about the bread in Comment #89.
Katya — More, more! Tell us everything. They don’t dip the bread for very long, do they? Do they caramelize it and cook it with the batter at the same time?
karen d. — I saw that recipe but am a total stickler and rejected it for not being proper creme brulee-ish for me. Creme brulee never has brown sugar or corn syrup — or butter! I hope this would taste as much like a bread-soaked version of the original as possible. That said, I am sure the Gourmet recipe, judging by the 500+ reviews, is phenomenal.
I made this for brunch this morning, and it was a big hit. One piece inexplicably survived the meal and sat on a plate in the kitchen for a few hours, with all of us sneaking in there to grab a bite every now and then. It’s DELIGHTFUL cold, too.
I agree along with everybody else that, yes it sounds great, I have been making my own version for 15 years but I use milk/soymilk, 1/2 to 2/3 package firm tofu, 1/2 to 1 banana(optional), tsp vanilla, 1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar, dash of cinnamin and salt. Mix that all together in a blender then dip your favorite fresh baked bread in the mix (both sides) and cook in a skillet just like normal french toast, the sugar caramelizes on both sides very nicely and is possibly the best way to start any weekend morning. Most people aren’t into tofu, I know that, but you will not know the difference. The only difference is that this french toast is like no other, although now there is creme brulee french toast that might take the cake!! Ill have to try very soon, sorry mom I saw the recipe Sunday Night. Ill have to remember next year.
Oh my goodness! that looks absolutely amazing. I have never been to City Bakery, but I have a feeling that that’s going to change!
Wow…this looks delicious. I never made French toast
with thick slices but will try it now.
I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day
and sending a mini-high five to your
I love French toast…and now I love it even more!!!
Food Fairy Nuvola
I’m reading this on Monday morning…too late for Mother’s Day, but it sounds like a good recipe for the first day of summer for my student husband (which is technically today, but he had to go to the library to meet with someone about his summer internship, so the toddler and I are the ones bumming around in our pajamas at 9:30 in the morning and reading blogs instead of doing anything productive.)
Yeah, I should have read this sooner. I did make a SK recipe for Mother’s Day, the Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake (AKA Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll in 4-layer form) for my gluten-intolerant mother-in-law, and she was delighted (as were the rest of us who can eat gluten anytime we want). However, I left out the Grand Marnier from the whipped cream filling when I saw how expensive a bottle was at the store; I just couldn’t justify the indulgence for a few tablespoons and the cake was still delicious without it, but now I see the suggestion to add a bit to the french toast, which sounds divine, and I’m cursing myself for not buying it when I had the excuse that it was not just for my own enjoyment but dear mother’s too…and I’m just dreading what other amazing suggested uses I’m sure to see for it in the days to come.
i could eat french toast every day for breakfast! the best i’ve ever eaten was in bali at uma ubud!
I am a creme brulee-aholic, and a pretty serious bruncher, I had to have this french toast. I ‘casually’ emailed this recipe to my husband on Friday, just as a ‘suggestion’ for Mother’s Day brunch. He really came through, and so did this recipe! Even down to melting the sugar. It was delicious, and I was so pleased that he took the hint for once. Hope you had a delicious Mother’s Day too!
Deb, made this for my mom yesterday (whole family cheered for it!) I did finish it in the broiler because my attempt at the melted sugar over the top failed miserably, and despite the warning, I burnt my finger. Not totally perfect, but it did the trick, I just had to rotate the pan to avoid some pieces getting too dark. Great recipe, love your site!
So my husband got the “hint” (I emailed him this link and he saw my earlier comment, HA) and made this for me Sunday – HOLY SWEET FANCY MOSES. This should only ever be served in bed, because you’re going to need elastic waste pants and a nap to get you through the rest of the day. But it’s sooooo worth it.
He even made the caramel sauce! And home made whipped cream!
My three sisters and I are planning a sister week this summer in Texas. I have been looking for and found one recipe that I will use and cook for them during the week. I may have just found my second. This looks delicious, I think it would be something they wouldn’t normally fix for themselves in their busy lives, and something they would love. Even the name sounds delightful! I’m going to give it a try. Thank you for the step by step photos, that is what I like to see with a recipe I’ve never tried before.
It sounds like you’re talking about a “tilting skillet,” which I’ve also heard referred to as a “braising pan,” I worked in a restaurant that used one to carmelize onions and then brown huge quantities of ground beef. I think they may have also used it for soup. It’s basically a giant steel lasagna pan with gas burners under it that tilts up 45 degrees so you can get at the contents easier. Does that sound like what you’re thinking of?
WOW….FIRST let me start by saying that I have been making your boozy baked french toast (with the Bailey’s) for a long time now, to complete and total rave reviews. I have changed it up every which way till sunday with add ins, different liquors, and even some really funky flops (rosewater comes to mind).
THIS looks divine. I cannot wait for an excuse to make it! I too love that Balthazar loaf and just love the very literal shape they have. Deb you win again! swoon!!!
love you, love the blog, cant wait to buy your book!
I made this for breakfast yesterday (scaled down as there were only two of us eating breakfast) and it was absolutely divine!
Thank you so much for the recipe! It’s going to be what I use for french toast from now on.
This sounds AMAZING! Too bad I saw this the day after Mother’s Day. I would have “suggested” my husband make it for me. Oh well, my birthday’s this week. Mwa ha haaa!
I made this yesterday morning and it was a hit. I didn’t flip them halfway through and had some trouble with the toast sticking to the parchment paper. I’ll probably try flipping them next time.
I don’t normally like French toast but I really enjoyed this one–thanks Deb!
Oh my. This looks fabulous! I was just out to breakfast recently and saw an apple confit brioche carmelized french toast that sounded to die for (minus the price tag…)! breakfast at home for one is so hard to justify… but you’ve inspired me. Thanks Deb – Cheers!
i totally see what you mean about it being a more real-deal brulee. and we are all probably better off without extra corn syrup! :) i am still going to give your version a try, as i am always more than satisfied with your recipes.
D’you know that I’ve never actually made french toast? I only recently overcame my childhood egg-phobia, so as much as I love cooking, I’ve never incorporated anything eggy. This looks awesome though – I’m generally a fan of bringing candy into meals, and you can’t say no to a caramel lid.
I agree with commenter #84. I’m still holding onto the possibility of using the torch to melt and burn the sugar. I am a little unclear as to why that didn’t work for you. If I were careful to make near perfect slices, theoretically, it should work, shouldn’t it? I’d love to hear more comments (hopefully successful ones) along these lines.
Deb, I’m always chuckling when I see your photos of one hand stirring, or in this case, one hand pouring the large Pyrex measuring cup of batter. I know your other hand is taking the photo, one eye is likely closed, and I can only imagine what a clumsy ordeal that can be.
Renate — It’s totally clumsy! I need an assistant, or perhaps least room in the kitchen for a second human being to stand first.
The reason why the blowtorch didn’t work is that the slices start out perfectly flat, but do not end that way. They become a bit concave after they come out of the oven, so the sugar rolls to the center and the outer edges become charred. But if anyone pulls it off, I want to hear about it because it’s sure fun to use that thing once a year!
Dang….didn’t see this in time for Mother’s day, but I can assure you I will not be waiting until next Mother’s day to make it! – S
this looks divine!
Ohhh my goodness. I visited City Bakery for their Hot Chocolate month in February… but Creme Brulee French Toast?! I had no idea.
This is a great idea! The French Toast looks delicious!
Here in Portugal we have something more or less similar, it’s called “Fatias douradas” (golden slices) you can make it with any kind of bread (not sweet) you put the slice of bread in milk, then in beaten eggs and then you fry the slices in olive oil or regular oil. At the end you drizzle sugar on the top of the fatias. Try them, they are so good, and here it’s a way of using “old” bread and not throw it away.
You blog tastes very well
I can’t believe I’ve never read to oven-bake french toast. That… actually makes sense. Huh. That said, this particular french toast looks EVIL. My husband’ll die if I make that for him. It’s on the list. ;-)
made this, loved it! I am going with maple syrup though. Thank you wonderful instructions
Get it in my belly!
this looks sooo good!
im defanatly going to have to try this at home!
Oh my goodness. BAKING the toast! Smartest tip ever. I have been trying to perfect my french toast for the longest time, and I think this recipe will do the trick. Can’t wait to try it out!
I’ve had the City Bakery French Toast, and mine was not imperfectly soaked, but was indeed like bread pudding. You should try the Landmarc french toast, at Columbus Circle….the slice is enormous, about 5 inches tall, very custardy….
The stovetop-then-bake method is one I’ve been using for a while (Thanks, Alton Brown!) and it makes things amazing. Cannot wait to try this.
I’m a sucker for City Bakery and for all things brunch. This looks really tasty, and I like the idea of baking the french toast. I’m sure challah would work just as well — I’ve used challah for bread pudding. I love all those eggy breads (mentioned challah in one of my posts: http://www.runfasttravelslow.com/2011/03/nothing-is-better-than.html).
These pieces of french toast are tiny little dreammakers. Adore, adore, adore! I could write a list about everything I love about them.
As always, Deb, your posts make me want to forget about that pesky job that pays the bills, drive 3 hours to the airport, Jet Blue to NYC and eat my way through the city’s bakeries. Or at least drive 3 hours to the nearest whole foods so I can buy some brioche. And since I’ve never brulee’d anything without something getting singed, i luv the bittersweet topping recipe.
This is absolutely the best looking french toast I have ever seen!
Hi – is there any way to make the caramel using either maple syrup or maple sugar? I don’t think I could give up my maple syrup…
Any dessert flavor incorporated into breakfast is okay by us! Bravo!
I want to eat that with oven-crisped bacon and a scatter of toasted pecans. I’ve only been reading your blog for a few weeks now, so I’ve been in Catch-Up Club as to which recipes to try first, but I think this is going to the top of the list .Cheers from New Zealand
P.s. I found your blog through a link on David Lebovitz site.
Ohh, wow.wow.wow. These look just so awesome.
Now these look fabulous! I have been searching breakfast recipes all morning, I love french toast!
May I be the first to post a less than gushing comment on this recipe? I made this for mothers day brunch with my daughter and two grandchildren. They loved the bread but spent a lot of time picking the hardened sugar syrup out of their teeth, where it got stuck. They said, Grammy, we love the french toast, but next time could you leave off the sticky topping?
That said, everyone really loved it. I made two batches: one with a challah, the other with a white sandwich loaf. The challah absorbed the milk well overnight, and baked evenly in 30 minutes. It was easy to remove from the parchment paper. The white loaf, on the other hand, must have absorbed too much liquid, as it needed 40 minutes to cook, then stuck to the parchment paper and I had to bake it another five minutes to get it done enough to release from the pan. Different textures, I guess.
Made this for Mother’s Day too (with Challah) and it came out perfectly! Served with creme fraiche and berries, with thick-cut bacon and your ribboned asparagus salad on the side. And mimosas, of course. Amazing! It all went together so well, and I loved that the french toast wasn’t cloyingly sweet. It was perfect. Mom and grandma were super impressed.
This was delish! I made this for Mother’s Day brunch and it was a hit! I used a day-old loaf of french bread instead of brioche because I couldn’t find brioche anywhere (dang small town), but it was still great. I also left off the sugar topping and went for some warmed maple syrup and sliced local strawberries instead. Fabulous! I even had a few pieces left over that I froze and plan to enjoy this weekend.
Deb, this recipe has been haunting me since you posted it and now i’m trying to figure out how i can make creme brulee bread pudding…
oh my goodness. you just combined the two things i love most! definitely trying this ASAP. thanks!
This turned out wonderfully! You’re right, syrup is just too much. Whipped cream and strawberries were perfect with it. I used the melted sugar approach as the baked bread wouldn’t fit in our tray for the toaster oven/broiler.
Best. Idea. Ever.
I served this for a mothers day brunch this past weekend ,What a hit ! evey one loved it .I just drizzled the melted sugar over the toasts and seved with a drunken fruit salad
ever been to Comme Ca (in Los Angeles, newest outpost opened in Vegas, rcently too)? They have an absolutely, deliriously wonderful Creme Brulee French toast and it’s just as you described in your fantasies: cream brulee custard but set with bread… They soak the bread in creme brulee custard for a day and then bake it and then torch the top. O – M – G
Hi Deb! The French toast looks so delicious. I wish I’d seen the recipe sooner so I could have made my mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. I might just make it anyways since it looks so mouthwatering :D
i want to make these this weekend!
I’m am so excited about these, can’t wait to try them! Just found your blog via Martha Stewart…It is amazing!
I love your writing; the descriptions are so vivid! My mouth was watering by the third sentence.
This looks SO good I want to have it for dinner tonight!
Hey, this recipe is fantastic! I just wanted to throw out there that as dictated by the laws of cookery, when it comes to who gets to clean up and lick the bowl (or utensils) afterwards, the ruling is as follows:
The person doing all the cooking can only be relieved of cleaning duties afterwards as long as he/she does not lick any of the yummy utensils or bowl used in the process. Failing this, he/she will have to help in the cleaning process afterwards too.
It’s the law, the cookery law! :)
Keep up the good cooking!
-Martha Britten Stewart
I made this the other day and it was delicious! I should have flipped the half way thru baking, as they got very dark on the bottom. Thus I was afraid to broil them, though in retrospect broiling wouldn’t have harmed the dark side as it was facing down! I will definitely be trying this again soon.
Brilliant! I salute you.
This looks RIDICULOUS. I am extremely impressed. Looking forward to indulging myself with it in the near future!
It looks great especially for a wedding brunch or a bridal shower.
I made this over the weekend and it was a huge hit! The only thing I’d change is adding extra orange zest in addition to the Grand Marnier and just a pinch of cinnamon. Other than that it was super delicious!!!
This is a definite “MUST TRY”
This looks delicious and is so original! I have to make this.
Could you brulee the top with a torch before you pop the bread into the oven? Then the bread will be wet and won’t catch on fire, but you still get the burnt/crunchy tastiness…
I made this for a Mother’s Day brunch for 12, WHAT A HIT! I did double the Grand Marnier and to keep things simple topped them with fresh berries tossed in a little maple syrup. And soaking them overnight is a MUST, although I found they needed a little extra time in the oven.
What a great idea to have a hard caramel topping! I love making French toast sandwiches filled with peanut butter and chocolate. Next time I make it, I’m definitely adding the caramel
I had a friend make a nearly identical recipe and it was divine. This recipe is one of my favorite “breakfast for dinner” meals :)
I made over the weekend for my 2 year twins. Amazing. Between the boys, my husband and myself we ate the ENTIRE loaf.
Help! This was delicious…but, when I went to melt the sugar…it just clumped. It started to turn a slight brown, so I was worried about burning it and stopped heating it at that point. The rock hard clumps were not so good…so, I opted to just remove them and sprinkled the toast with cinnamon and sugar.
I agree next time I’ll be adding orange zest in addition to the Grand Marnier…and, cinnamon for sure! Even still…this tops my current list of french toast recipes.
Can someone tell me what I did wrong with the crunchy top…I want to master this step! HELP!
If you keep stirring it over heat, it will always melt. It must melt before it burns.
Oh deb i want this. I want it I want it aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
I just made it his morning and my roommie has suggested I make it a weekly weekend ritual.
Just some tweaks I made: Instead of an orange, I used a grapefruit for the zest. (Not because I was daring to be different but I was simply too lazy to run to the store to get a single orange. It worked out well still!)
And I’ve learned the timing of the caramelization is critical otherwise you will have many pots to soak and wash after…
Im trying this with cinnamon challah bread tonight! it looks so amazing, and i have a love for french toast like no other!! yummy yummy!!
Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe does a stellar creme brulee French toast too, if you ever go you simply must try it! I tasted the orange in theirs and I assumed orange zest but I somehow didn’t think of Grand Marnier…genius.
They also somehow definitely managed to blowtorch theirs from what I could tell. Their toasts were oddly level, too. Not sure how they did it. I like the idea of caramel on top though…can’t resist stove top melted sugar. Mmmm. I will have to try this right away. :)
I’ve been craving for french toast for long time. And as soon i saw your recipe i rushed to buy a white loaf. I followed exactly your recipie and soaked the bread in the mixture for 30 mins. The smell and the aroma was indescribable. The bread seemed to rise fairly as a result of the heat. I really thought i did it correctly, Unfortunately it came very sogy in the center. Prehaps it was the type of bread i used.
At least i enjoyed the smell. I will surely try it another time.
My kids love French Toast and this looks really good, like the thick toast too. I think I may need to get up a little sooner on a Sunday morning and surprise them.
This is totally unrelated, but, congratulations on winning Saveur’s best cooking blog award!
Hi Deb. What a wonderful recipe. This french toast is so rich and creamy, really decadent. Somehow reminds me of Tres Leches because of the silky texture. Congratulations, it is a great recipe.
This sounds like the best French toast ever! Can’t wait to try it!
Tried it the other night as a pre-Father’s Day brunch trial. The toast was delicious, but the sugar topping didn’t work out so hot. It got really dark (downright brown, like the color of maple syrup) and never became as smooth as your pictures. I sort of smeared it on the toasts and it tasted good, but was too thick and hard to cut through. Was my heat too high? Too low?
My Husband will love me for ever if I make this for him…. oh wait he is already supposed to love me forever! I’ll still make it for him, a little extra insurance is never a bad thing!
just made this for my dept meeting at my place! went off almost without a hitch — I had read your warnings about the hot sugar, but my boss tried to help spread the caramel before I could warn her! Yup, she burned her finger…
Just when I thought french toast couldn’t possibly get any better, you combine it with creme brulee…. I guess the diet starts again next week now!
I made this for dinner last night, out of homemade bread, after fantasizing about it for two weeks.
It was phenomenal. Thanks for so many gorgeous recipes, I love the blog!!
When I received this recipe in my inbox I knew exactly when I was going to try it…on a Scrapbooking weekend with girlfriends! It was this past weekend and I must say this breakfast was a hit!
I did broil it so I am here to report my results…FANTASTIC! I used Challah bread and did the overnight soak. I baked them for 30 min and then stuck the pan under the broiler. I left the door open so I could watch the sugar melt…what a glorious sight…and oh, so pretty. I rotated the pan as I watched the sugar melting so as not to burn any of it. The pan was in the closest position to the flame and it took no time at all. The crunchy top this made was a wonderful textural element for the dish…and of course you must serve it with whipped cream…everything is better with whipped cream ;)
Thanks so much for the wonderful dish…my daughter wants me to make it for her birthday on Saturday…so guess what we are having?
I just thought I might add that my toast was a little convex when I took it out of the oven…not at all concave…not sure if it was do to using a different bread, but I was able to torch it under the broiler quite evenly due to the ‘evenness’ of it. Also, I think I would add both the Grand Marnier AND the zest if you want a more definite orange taste.
Thanks again..love your blog and have used many recipes, but this is the first (rather second) post I have made. I’ll be back ;)
I made this for my husband and me and it was fantastic! Thanks so much for a great recipe.
I’ve been wanting to make these since I first saw the post… I finally did this morning. WOW! I had two slices for breakfast and just snuck another one as a late night snack. I’m going to need extra treadmill time tomorrow, but it’s so worth it!
Try this with a cinnamon sugar topping and maple syrup, unbelieveably decadent.
I made this recipe this morning, and it was delicious. Instead of melting the caramel myself, I sprinkled the toasts with sugar half way through the baking process to start it melting. I turned the oven to broil for the last 3 minutes reducing the total cooking time by 2 minutes and they came out with a crispy almost burnt sugar layer.I tried to make sure to get the sugar sprinkled as evenly as possible over the toast to avoid having uncovered edges.
One more note. I used brown sugar instead of white in the custard, and it gave it a slightly richer flavor.
I made these awesome French toast yesterday for Sunday morning breakfast of our stay at home “Carmegeddon” weekend. The scent of the french toast, as they were baking, drove us all insane! We could hardly wait for them to finish baking and boy were they worth the wait! They tasted even better then they smelled! The only thing was I opted out of making the carmel top and instead topped them with fresh berries and powdered sugar (I’ll try the carmel topping next time). You can bet your bottom dollar that these will also become a regular weekend breakfast at our home now. Thank you once again!
Wonderful Deb! I’m looking for a great vanilla bean Crème Brûlée… Can you tell me a good online source for one? I love you and can’t wait for the cookbook!
I was craving some french toast for dinner and this was an awesome treat! I used my torch for the sugar and it worked great.
This recipe is based on a simpler one : Le Pain perdu (litt : lost bread)
It’s made with dry bread (bought some days ago), eggs, milk, and vanilla.
The mixture eggs/milk/vanilla (and a hint of salt) must be relatively liquid.
let the bread “drink” the mixture for 30 secs on each side.
Cook in a hot pan (the middle mus be kept a little juicy)
Sprinkle some sugar on the slices before serving (jam is good too)
Simple, cheap, and delicious.
Bon appétit !
This looks delicious and always such great photography!
Do you think I could use the custard from this recipe in your boozy baked French toast?
Absolutely. These days, I still make the boozy baked french toast, but I often double the eggs. It sets up better. The recipe is due for an update!
I tried this today and I think my sugar totally missed the honey-colored, fully melted bit and went straight for dark and chunky. Yikes! What did I do wrong?
WOW,this looks very good,i really cant wait to try this recipe!
WoW!! WHY has baking the French Toast never occurred to me?! I have to make SO many slices (at least a couple of loaves of bread) that I RARELY make it anymore. This is PERFECTO!!!
Many thanks….will be making it for breakfast THIS MORNING!
My toast stick to the parchment BAD? How did you get yours off so neatly?
The only time I’ve ever had trouble with anything sticking to parchment paper is when I realized I’d bought fake parchment paper (i.e. “natural” parchment or other names). True parchment should be silicone coated, and it’s really hard to get anything to stick to silicone. Could this be what happened?
Wonderful!! I did just the part without the brûlée, as my husband isn’t a huge caramel fan. It was still wonderful. I used “Texas Toast” , and everyone was happy. To give the brown effect, tried two ways: one under broiler for about 3 minutes (watching carefully!), the other putting briefly on heated griddle. Both worked, but they all liked the “crispiness” of the broiled version! For next time (which will be soon!) will try the overnight soak version, and half done with brûlée, for the returning from college caramel addict. Anyway, looks like this is now the “go to” French Toast–mixed lots of cinnamon in batter, another prerequisite in our house!
Loved the ease of this recipe. The toast was slightly bland although my family LOVED the caramel crunch on top. I think the blandness resulted, in part, to my not finding any really great bread (I used one loaf of grain and one loaf of white) and adding 1 tsp apricot brandy and 1 tsp vanilla flavoring (since my vanilla bean ended up being too dry to scrape) in place of the called for ingredients, which I did not have. It really needed that shot of orange flavor, or perhaps some cinnamon and nutmeg my husband suggested? (He is a big cinnamon guy.) My 15 yr old son especially loved this recipe and will be first in line tomorrow morning for left overs, I am sure!
My mom and I made this this morning for Christmas, and it was amazing! My mom made a loaf of honey whole wheat bread and also handled the custard and baking, and I finished them off under the broiler and topped mine with fig spread and ripe pear. Soooo delicious! We put in significantly more Grand Marnier and actually couldn’t taste it; next time we’ll combine it with some orange zest. Thanks for helping us make such a wonderful brunch!
I am sitting here near Vancouver on a very wet rainy night before I go back to teaching 3rd graders tomorrow after the holidays – killing time and NOW I discover your fabulous recipe! My husband and I consider ourselves crème brûlée experts (tasting them, that is), so your recipe intrigued me. Now I can’t wait for the weekend to try this. Furthermore, you should be a foodie writer, as your whole cooking description was a delight to read. Thanks for the entertainment.
I love your descriptive writing- with humor also! That’s very helpful when navigating my way through the kitchen… but I am posting to ask if anyone has heard of a Verne Brûlée? A friend mentioned the name but I cannot find anything a “Verne” only creme.
Any help would be appreciated! In the meantime, I’m going to attempt these french toasts’!
Finally made Served creme brûlée French toast for brunch today- they were brilliant! Can’t believe how easy it was. Served with fresh fruit to take the edge off, I think I spread too much caramel…
Caramel- never attempted prior to this recipe. Take 1: burnt it all cause I left it on high heat and left it alone. My bad. Take 2: perhaps a little over brown but I loved it. And it was magic when the caramel cooled and formed angelic strands of hair! I was so excited!
Ps. I used a loaf of brioche, it worked wonderfully. Gorgeously soft texture. Thanks ever so much! Will be staple brunch item.
Have you any experience with making French toasts with a microwave oven. That sounds like a good solution to me!
I think I will try it with your recipe
Just made this for Father’s Day breakfast. It was DELICIOUS! Very well received and my husband left the table totally stuffed. We used a challah loaf which seemed a good bread for this type of french toast. I found doing it this way made a much less dense french toast than the traditional way which can cause a soggy, flat center. It was really convenient to have the french toast in the oven leaving the stovetop free for bacon and hash browns. Cooking time was right on. You didn’t mention how long the sugar would take to caramelize which was tricky since I was working with a time frame. I started it about 10 mins before the french toast was supposed to be done. Mine ended up taking 15-20 minutes I believe. We served ours with a fruit mixture of strawberries, blueberries, and cherries (which has inspired me to make caramel coated cherries since the two flavors went together sooo well). I also added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the custard.
made this the other day– absolutely scrumptious!
Perfect on a late sunday morning!
Try this method for browning both sides of your oven-baked “Grilled Cheese” and oven-baked French Toast: Make sure you have TWO of the same sized cookie sheets or baking trays. Heat them both in the oven, and, place the HOT tray on top of the grilled cheese sandwiches or french toast, so that the bottom of the hot tray is in effect making a light-weight panini grill or in this case, coming into direct contact with the top of your french toast. If sugar is present, it will melt the sugar. IF it’s just battered or buttered bread, it will brown it. Now, I’m not sure how the melted sugar would turn out (stick?) so maybe a quick spray with cooking spray would be necessary to keep the sugar from melting onto the pan? Anyway, a double layer cookie pan set up grills both side of your sandwiches/toast.
Love french toast, I will try the recipe this Sunday!
Made this today for my husband and favorite uncle. I did it with the prescliced Texas Toast because I did not have a ton of time to make homemade bread and I soaked it over night. I baked it this morning and did the carmelized piece of things two ways. I did half of them the way you explained here and apparently I lack delicacy because it turned out too thick. But still yum. The other half I used raw sugar and torched them with my kitchen torch. The trick to not scorching the bread was to make sure the sugar was spread evenly over the whole piece of brad and went all the way to the edges. They were delicious. When I make this recipe again, I will do them all with the torch.
This looks and sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing the recipe-can’t wait to try it!
Deb, I fixed this today for a champagne brunch and it was fabulous! I did the broiler version and it was perfect (but instead of a tbsp of sugar per piece, I did just a tsp so there was less time needed under the broiler) I still got a good crunchy crust. I also paired it with a honey flavored yogurt that was the perfect touch!
Thanks much! Its a winner!!!
I found this on pinterest (that’s why I’m posting 1.5 years later ;) but I’m planning on making this for a small group that meets tomorrow evening. I noticed you said the bread could soak overnight. If I want till 5pm to cook it tomorrow, will it be too soggy? (I’m using plan white french bread by the way, planning to cut it thick though, like you suggested) Also I couldn’t find Grand Mariner at my local (small) supermarket, so I bought Triple Sec instead =/, any suggestions on the adjustment I need to make with that portion of the recipe?
I made this for our anniversary breakfast. Fortunately. I tested it first and stuck with my own creme brulee recipe (because this recipe had a strange texture and taste). With my recipe and bread, it turned out pretty great! If I made this again, I would add some kind of fruit juice to the brulee (lemon probably) and I would double the brulee. I also made raspberry syrup to drizzle over it instead of caramel and it was AMAZING! But then, I really hate caramel:)
If you want even more decadence try Panettone in place of bread. THE BEST!
I just stumbled across this, and thought I should point out that the actual recipe is in the cookbook Gourmet by, Ruth Reichel. Your version is very similar and sounds great, but I thought you might like to see the original. The main difference is that the crust is actually baked on the bottom and then the french toast is flipped over when served. The recipe is very easy and a real crowd pleaser!
I made this last Christmas and it was amazing!! Also made bacon wrapped eggs as one of our other courses– we had a pretty big involved breakfast while opening presents :D
I just made this recipe for Christmas brunch today, and was blown away by how good it turned out! This is my new favorite french toast- the caramel topping was super easy and made it a bit fancier for special occasions. Thank you!!
Best french toast I have ever made!
Deb, I haven’t yet made this recipe, because I’m searching for something not quite like this. You piqued my interest with the words “bread-pudding-like”. THAT is what I’m after: bread pudding French toast. You are my go-to person for trusty “this will be good stuff” recipes, and I’m sure this is fabulous. But I’m wondering if you’ve ever eaten bread pudding French toast and/or if you’d be interested in hunting up a recipe? I had some, just once, at The Greenbriar (it was a business trip and I got to tag along) and I’ve been looking unsuccessfully every since for something that might come close. Theirs was served as a “casserole-style” dish, rather than as individual pieces. It would be a superb make-ahead brunch item. I don’t know if you take requests, but I’m setting for this challenge for you with high hopes! Thank you for your many fabulous recipes and photos and your ever-engaging narrative.
robin – check out “boozy baked french toast.” heaven!
Yum! I have been making this version from Food Network for years. It truly is delish. I may try your version since you do not soak overnight. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/creme-brulee-french-toast-recipe2/index.html
I have a rich man’s brioche recipe that this would be perfect for!
Ok, I actually made this last year for passover with matzot. It was absolutely delicious! You can only eat so much matzobrei before you start crying so I needed some inspiration.
My husband still remembered this from last year and asked me to make it again for passover. He doesn’t know that the original recipe is not a passover one so I will surprise him with some Challah French toast after the holidays.
Thank you so much for this recipe, we absolutely love it!
this is yummy! i;ll be making one this coming sunday!
Sounds delish! Will definitely be trying this. Just have to find some brioche to slice thick. I’m not very good with caramel- might just sprinkle brown sugar on top before I put the whole tray into the oven. This ‘brulees’ my bread and butter pudding just fine.
I didn’t see any reviews about melting the sugar with the broiler so I tried it. For me it was a total fail! It burt the top, within 2 minutes, and didn’t melt the sugar. I just wanted others to know it’s worth melting the sugar in the pan.
Re the broiler method, Jenny at #300 said that version was perfect (but instead of a tbsp of sugar per piece, she did just a tsp so there was less time needed under the broiler).
Just made this and it was incredible! Was too impatient to wait the 30 minutes to let it soak, did it in about 5 and it was still incredibly moist. Better than any French toast you can get at a restaurant. Thanks again Deb!
Not a winner for me, sadly. Insides remained soggy even though I persevered with baking. I usually pan-fry my french toast in butter after a simple soak in eggs and a splash of milk and vanilla, and I have to say I still prefer it that way. For all the added calories and fat of heavy cream, it didn’t really do anything for me. I had no issues with making the caramel, but used only a small proportion of it and even then I found it a bit thick for the toast – made it hard to cut and kind of cracked my teeth. I love the idea though – might try it out a different way (e.g., pan fry, sugar sprinkle on top instead of caramel) and see how it goes.
Wish their was a simple way to print the recipe.
There is a print icon that leads to a print template at the bottom of each recipe, where it says “DO MORE:” You can also click CTRL + P from any recipe post and it will take you to a streamlined print template.
For the record, I find your stories (writing) very funny – humor is often hard to get to come across the ways it’s intended in written word – you do it well.
And this French toast looks phenomenal! I will try someday when sugar isn’t a bad word – Christmas maybe. (Although I seem to have saved every ‘bad word’ dish for Christmas… I’ll need more than 24 hours to get them all in 😋)
We use a vintage Waffle maker from the 70’s… oh my goodness, all those yummy holes the waffle maker puts into the bread is perfect for all your special toppings. We call ours homemade waffle stacked toast. Holy goodness… I can’t wait to try your recipe in our old waffle maker on Christmas Day. Yeah ❤️❤️
I just made this today for Easter brunch and it was fantastic! I used lemon zest instead of Grand Marnier/orange zest, soaked the bread overnight, and I baked a loaf of King Arthur Flour’s Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread for the bread. I didn’t have a problem with needing more time – 35 minutes rendered beautifully custardy, soft slices.
I would reduce the caramelizing sugar from 2/3 to 1/2c. Just for my own sake – after lightly spreading/pouring the caramel onto the baked toasts, there was still a little left over, so I kept adding a little to all the toasts until the sugar was gone. The resulting layer was a bit too crunchy. Altogether a winning recipe though – thanks Deb!
Though I’ve loved Smitten for YEARS, what prompted me to finally write today is to tell you that my broiler doesn’t work either.! Never has. Probably never will. What a relief that you, of all people, have lived without it.
Yours, in solidarity,