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5 Ojo Inn
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Baked Creme Brulee French Toast
While this recipe may seem complicated, it packs a fantastic wallop of flavor and brings plenty of oohs and aahs from guests. Make sure you use challah or other egg bread as it adds to the flavor. If you don't have vanilla bean, substitute vanilla extract. The vanilla bean gives this dish a very distinctive taste, but I have used vanilla extract with excellent results.
Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom and sides with foil, making the pieces long enough to fold up and over the top of the pan while baking. A criss-cross pattern of two or more long pieces of foil works best.
Combine the cream and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat just long enough to warm the cream, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep until cool, about 15 minutes. Pour the cream into a mixing bowl, straining out the vanilla bean. Cut the bean open lengthwise and scrape out all the fragrant little black seeds. Stir the vanilla seeds back into the cream.
Add the egg yolks and sugar to the cream, then whisk the custard mixture until well combined and uniformly light yellow. Make a layer of bread slices, cutting or tearing slices as needed to fit evenly. Pour about 1/4 of the custard mixture evenly over the bread. Repeat with 3 more layers of bread and custard. The bread may rise a bit above the rim of the pan on the last layer. Pour the remaining custard over it slowly so that you get minimal runoff over the pan's edge. Fold the foil up over the top. Arrange a plate over the foil and weigh it down with a can of beans or other heavy can from the pantry. Refrigerate for about 1 hour so that the custard soaks through the bread thoroughly. Remove the can and plate.
Shortly before the mixture is finished soaking, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the springform pan in a water bath that comes about halfway up the pan's side. Bake for about 1-1/2 hours, until firm at the center. Open the foil top and cool the French toast. Fold the foil back over and chill until ready to use. (If you need your springform pan for something else, the French toast can be unmolded after several hours when it is chilled thoroughly. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, then release the spring on the pan's side. Wrap the French toast tightly in plastic for longer storage.)
When you are ready to serve the French toast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the French toast into 8 wedges, or more or fewer as you wish. Arrange the wedges on a baking sheet, then brush each wedge lightly with butter. Bake for about 10 minutes until warm in the center and lightly toasted and crisp on the surface. (You don't actually have the caramel topping of creme brulee, but you get its familiar cream custard contrasting crunchy surface.) Arrange each wedge on a plate, surround with a pool of maple syrup, and garnish with fruit and whipped cream. (We use raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries, but any seasonal fruit can be used.)
Serves: 8 to 10
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