Salted Caramel Baked French Toast

June 12, 2014

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Oh, hey there!  Remember me?  I apologize for having disappeared on you for a couple weeks!  Was I on vacation?  Nope.  Was I just super busy?  No, not really.  Did I do absolutely nothing, including posting on my blog because I became super lazy in the two weeks post-finals?  Yeaaah, that’s it.

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I was a lethargic, sitting on my couch, watching nothing but bad (but, I mean, so good!) reality television, ordering only take-out, did not even buy milk, social butterfly for the first week after I finished up the semester.  It was pretty sad.  But I was a social, brunch-making, enjoying the lovely weather, flower-picking, meadow frolicking, non-downer for the second week!  And now I feel like the time has come to share.

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This recipe is every bit as decadent as it is practical.  It is all do-ahead work, which is perfect when you may be hosting a brunch.  It also can be adapted in a variety of different ways.  Don’t want salted caramel?  That’s weird…but just fine!  Bake without the caramel on the bottom, and serve with maple syrup, instead.  Want to add chocolate chips to this already extra-rich dish?  Go crazy and layer them in the bread before soaking, and enjoy!  Before going on a juice cleanse, because you may need one.

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But it’s the salted caramel, and the marscapone, and the extra salted caramel marscapone sauce that makes this so over-the-top, and worthy of a rooftop brunch on a warm, lovely, pre-summer day.  Add a mango mimosa or two, and you’ll be declared the brunch host for life.  No more time to take time off!

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Salted Caramel Baked French Toast (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 loaf challah bread (cut into 1/2 inch thick slices)
7 large eggs
3/4 cup marscapone cheese, divided (1/4 cup for custard, 1/2 cup for serving)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
salted caramel marscapone, to serve (recipe below)

The night before serving:

Place 3/4 cup sugar, butter and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed, pot, over medium heat.  Allow the butter to melt completely, and the sugar to start dissolving.  Stir with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches a deep amber color.  Add the cream, which will splatter and bubble up, and mix until the cream is well incorporated.  Pour the caramel into the baking vessel, a 9-10 inch pie plate, or gratin dish.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to harden the caramel.

To make the custard, beat together eggs, 1/4 cup marscapone, milk, remaining 1 tbsp sugar, vanilla and salt, until everything is all uniform.  Arrange the bread on top of the caramel, making sure that all of caramel is covered.  Carefully pour the custard on top of the bread.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.  Place a plate on top of the baking dish to ensure that all of the bread if properly soaked.

The next morning:

Take out french toast 1.5 hours before baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top if golden, and the bread seems moist, but there is no liquid left.  You can invert it by running a knife around the edges and (while wearing oven mitts!), inverting the baking dish onto a plate.  Or you can scoop it out and serve with extra marscapone and salted caramel marscapone sauce on top.  Decisions, decisions.

Salted Caramel Marscapone Sauce (slightly adapted from Milk and Honey)

You can make this the day before, or while the french toast is baking.  If you make it the day before, microwave it for 20 seconds and stir vigorously until the caramel becomes uniform again.  It will separate in the refrigerator.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
4 tbsp. butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 heaping tbsp. marscapone cheese
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot, and stir together.  Place over medium heat and do not stir.  Let it come to a boil and bubble, as it turns golden and amber colored.  When it is dark enough, take it off the heat and whisk in butter and salt.  After they are fully incorporated, add marscapone and whisk until uniform.

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