Challah-lujah French Toast with Apple, Pear and Walnut

I just finished episode 4 of The Taste. Not sure if you’ve seen this show yet. It’s The Voice meets Top Chef meets Days of Our Lives. Basically it’s a dramatized cooking competition show. I would have likely ignored its existence entirely except that I’m a sucker for Anthony Bourdain. Alongside him sits Nigella Lawson, Brian Malarkey and Ludo Lefebvre. Each with their own impressive resume, coaches a team of four chefs. Judging takes place with a blind tasting of a single bite. The pressure is on to sway the judges to select your dish based on just one taste – either the best or the worst. Simple concept so there’s a lot of filler drama and suspenseful looks exchanged. But it still makes for entertaining culinary television.

Mainly, I can’t get over the pressure of having to construct one perfect bite. But at its core, it’s a true measure of a dish’s balance. A careful juxtaposition of flavors and textures. One without the other will definitely fall flat whether in a cooking competition or in your own kitchen.

This past weekend I happened to have all the magical ingredients required for French toast. A breakfast indulgence I’m all too often disappointed by when it’s not made by mom. The ratio of golden crispy edges to custard like center is narrowly missed time and again. But this time I got it right. I decided to trust my gut and put any hard fast recipes aside.

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Challah-lujah French Toast

Makes 4 generous pieces, 2 servings

Ingredients

Fruit Topping:
2 Apples, peeled and chopped
1 Pear, peeled and chopped
Juice of half an orange
1 tbs Brown Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick or 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts

French Toast:
Challah bread loaf (of the sweeter, denser variety)
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 tbs Brown Sugar
1/2 tbs White Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Orange Zest
Salt

french toast

Preparation

Fruit Topping:
Combine fruit, sugar, cinnamon and a splash of water in a small sauce pan or pot. Over low heat let fruit cook down until softened but not mushy.  At this point add the orange juice and chopped walnuts and let stand covered until ready to serve.

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French Toast:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a shallow but rimmed dish gently whisk together the eggs, milk, white and brown sugar, vanilla, orange zest and small pinch of salt. Combine with whisk until sugar dissolves.

Cut 4 slices of challah, about 1 inch thick. Place in egg/milk mixture, turning to coat all sides. Allow bread to soak up the remaining mixture by turning a few times while waiting for your pan to heat up on the stove over medium-low heat. Add a small slice of butter, once melted it should just coat the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, place 1-2 pieces in the pan. Allow to cook evenly and slowly on the first side. Once the bottom side is fully browned flip over to finish the other side. Place cooked piece(s) into an oven safe dish and into the oven while finishing any remaining pieces or cooking your fruit topping. This time in the oven keeps the slices warm and allows them to continue cooking and firming up while not loosing their crispy coating.

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The wait is now over, plate with your favorite fixings. I prefer a simple dusting of powdered sugar and a heap of fruit topping.

french toast