Culinary Experiment #10: Crème Brûlée French Toast

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I don’t have any ramekins. Nor do I own any of those bad-ass mini blow-torches. Nor do I have the money to purchase either item in the near future.

But I love crème brûlées. I looooove them. I need them. And I will have them in any form.

They not only taste amazing but the textural combination is wonderful: velvety, fluffy and smooth custard topped with a crunchy, glass-like caramel shell. Not to mention the custard is easily adaptable to varying flavor preferences. It doesn’t always have to be vanilla. You can experiment and have your comfort flavors on hand too.

So when the opportunity came up to incorporate one of my favorite desserts into my all-time favorite meal, breakfast, you better believe I wasted no time in getting the ingredients together to make it.

Enter the Crème brûlée French Toast recipe. This recipe not only replicates the flavor and texture of a traditional crème brûlée, it serves it up in what is basically an edible ramekin: sliced Challah bread, which is used to make the toast.

So this recipe is budget-friendly and decadent. It even offers an easier alternative to having to use a mini blow-torch or using your oven’s broiler to achieve that shiny, sweet, hard caramel crust.  And this alternative caramel method doesn’t sacrifice taste or presentation. It’s just fabulous.

However, praise aside, I should note that I changed some things in the recipe based on what I had on hand, price and personal taste and texture preferences. So here are my recipe notes:

  1. Challah bread: Challah is an eggy, braided bread and depending on who you ask and what their standards are, this is either a very difficult bread to bake or a super-easy one. I didn’t want to risk sacrificing taste just for the bragging rights of making my own bread so I left it up to the experts. Plus, it worked out that it was cheaper to buy a small loaf at Einstein Bros. Bagels than to make a giant loaf on my own. I only needed a small loaf for the purposes of this recipe; so that was also a plus. Yay, less waste! You could also use brioche bread, which is a cake-like eggy bread. I might try that next time, as I’ve heard brioche is sweeter.
  2. Milk: I substituted half and half for the milk mentioned in the recipe. I usually don’t buy milk. I’m not a fan. It just tastes watery to me. And also, I just had it handy in my fridge. I don’t think it makes a difference because the filling still tasted like a custard to me.
  3. Orange zest: I don’t own a zester or a grater and I’ve heard using dried orange zest is often considered pointless. And it’s expensive.  And I didn’t want to use orange juice because I was afraid the acid in it would curdle the cream and ruin the custard before I even baked it. So I just bought a small bottle of orange extract and used a little less than the teaspoon called for in the recipe, as I didn’t want the orange flavor to overpower the vanilla. I love vanilla.
  4. How long should you soak the bread in the custard before baking it? I think it depends on how thick your slices of bread are. If you managed to get your slices the same thickness as recommended in the recipe then follow their recommended time as well. But since I had a  smaller loaf of bread to work with, my slices were thinner and so rather than risk over-soaking and getting soggy french toast (blech!), I decided to only let the slices soak for 20 minutes total, 10 minutes on each side before baking, instead of the recommended 30 minutes.
  5. Hard-caramel shell method: DO NOT, I repeat, do not try to take the easy way out and try to melt the sugar in the microwave. It either won’t melt without cream or if you add cream, it will get all foamy and weird. And not at all caramel-colored. Seriously, it was like my bowl had rabies. Not good. Just do what it says in the recipe and melt the sugar in a pan. Although, I used a small skillet (not a sauce pan) to melt it. Not sure if that matters, but it sure seemed easy and fast enough to move the caramel to the toast in time to spread it before it hardened into a caramel candy shell.
  6. Custard: I just mixed the filling ingredients with a large metal spoon. I was afraid to over-mix this time. But I think next time I’ll use a blender to mix the custard ingredients together to see if I can get an even smoother, creamier filling.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories! Especially if you tried this recipe out and/or experimented with different flavors and toppings: I’d love to hear your suggestions.

I’d also like to thank Kara of for posting and writing about this recipe!

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a lovely week!

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