Earlier this summer we had two good Canadian friends of ours stay for a long weekend in Vienna, and as a parting thank you gift, they left us with a bottle of REAL maple syrup (contained in a glass bottle in the shape of a maple leaf no less, ay?). One might take this for granted in the US (or North America), but real maple syrup is not easy to come by around here, and several passersby have been salivating over it when visiting our apartment. We’ve been saving it for a special occasion, and since we were actually in town this past weekend, we decided to celebrate our treasured bottle by serving up an impromptu brunch featuring french toast.
This was my first stab at french toast, and due to some ingredient limitations at the grocery store saturday afternoon, I ended up mixing a recipe from Gale Gand’s Brunch book – my go to favorite for morning meals – and the Challah French Toast recipe from epicurious.com. I’m glad to report that the french toast was a success, minus one mishap when I thought I could save time by working a batch in my nonstick pan and my regular pan (n.b. lesson learned = use nonstick only), and the finishing touch in the oven allows you to take out all the french toast at once for guests and serve warm.
We offered it with the syrup, butter, and Gale’s strawberries in syrup as topping options. Rounding out the menu were prosciutto and salami platters, Austrian butterlaugencroissaints, fresh melon, and a fruit salad, courtesy of one our guests. The syrup, needless to say, was a hit for the homesick, and we even managed to salvage a bit for the next brunch!
For the batter:
6 large eggs
4 pinches salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Whisk eggs well in large bowl. Whisk in next three ingredients, and then gradually whisk in milk and then cream. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish.
For the toast:
1 loaf of store-bought brioche (the long braided kind) – slice into 1/2 inch thick slices
Preheat oven to 350°F. Soak bread slices in 1 layer, turning once, 8 minutes.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet or griddle over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Transfer 4 soaked bread slices to skillet with a slotted spatula and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Cook remaining bread in 2 batches, adding more butter as needed. Transfer slices as cooked to a large shallow baking pan (using a clean spatula) and, when all are browned, bake in middle of oven until hot, about 5 minutes.
Gale Gand’s Strawberries in Syrup
1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine ingredients in bowl and toss. Cover and chill until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
All photography by the New Diplomat’s Wife.