French toast is a portmanteau breakfast: toast and eggs and millk all in one tidy package! It’s hard to improve a portmanteau — by definition, the individual elements have already been considered and combined advantageously. But it’s possible.
There’s the ‘interesting syrup’ version, which doesn’t really change anything in the core recipe (bread, eggs, milk, butter) but which can still be a revelation to those unfortunates who have never had really good maple or otherwise-flavored syrup; there’s the ‘interesting batter’ variation, adding spices and other nifty tastes to the eggs and milk (I’ve never been overly impressed by efforts in this direction — cocoa, cinnamon, various liqueurs, all have had minimal impact); and there’s the bread-switch, which I think can be grand. If you’ve never had French toast (are we supposed to call it freedom toast, by the way? I’m behind on my PCness) made with raisin bread, you should do so at the earliest possible opportunity. And finally, there’s stuffed French toast.
Honestly, I was always a little afraid of stuffed French toast — what did you do, cut a slit in the hot bread and inject whatever complicated concoction into it? Did you need a syringe?
As it turns out: no.
It’s like making grilled cheese in a pan: DUH. And the stuffing can (and, in my opinion, should) be pretty simple; I tweaked my version a bit, and eventually settled on the recipe below.
Mix 4 tablespoons softened cream cheese, 1 teaspoon brown or confectioner’s sugar (I prefer the molassesy taste of brown, but confectioner’s produces a smoother result), ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.
Slice slightly stale bread, preferably one with a fairly fine crumb, about ½-inch thick each. Spread the cream cheese mixture on each slice and cover one of the slices with sliced strawberries. (The word “slice” no longer looks like a real word.)
Press the bread together to form strawberry-cream-cheese sandwiches.
In a shallow, wide bowl, beat one egg and ½ cup of milk together. Soak the sandwiches, three to five minutes on each side.
Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat. When hot, melt a pat of butter in the pan; when the butter stops foaming, but before it browns, slide the sandwich into the pan (do as many as a time as the pan can hold, obviously). Let brown three to five minutes, then flip. When the second side is golden, serve with more sliced strawberries and syrup if you want it.
I’ve tried this with a few kinds of fruit, and strawberry was the best — peaches were too slippery, and apples should be probably be sauteéd on their own first, to soften them.