When my daughter, Boo, turned 12 last month, she was very specific about what she would eat on her special day – from the time she woke up to dinner later that evening. Like me, Boo is big on breakfast and so I prepare it for her every day before she goes to school. For her birthday, I woke up at 5am just to make sure breakfast would be ready and she’d have enough time to eat leisurely. Again, just like me, Boo hates being late (for school) and does her best to be punctual.
She’d asked me to make my “Shamelessly Stuffed Peanut Butter Banana Walnut French Toast” – a real mouthful of a recipe name, that. It’s something that I included in my piece on 10 Best-Ever Breakfast Dishes featured last June in FOOD magazine. There wasn’t enough space to include the recipe and I wasn’t too happy with the photo I shot then for it, so I’m more than happy to redo it and include it here.
I like French toast but have always wondered why the bread was so thin, thus soggy, and there always seemed to be something missing. So, when revising this recipe, I turned to thick bread, and just because I tend to go over the top, I decided to stuff the toasts. I also wanted to include peanut butter because Boo and I are just mad for it. Really, peanut butter makes everything better.
The banana-walnut combination is classic of course, but when brown sugar is introduced, its molten texture melds everything together. I also wanted a custardy imprint on the bread as opposed to just wet mush, so I swapped the regular milk for cream and increased the eggs. Also, there’s a whopping half tablespoon of cinnamon here just because spice is always nice.
For my little girl who’s celebrating her last year before becoming a full-fledged teenager, this is a birthday breakfast treat carefully calibrated for her pleasure. She ambles into the kitchen, her eyes expectant, her spirits buoyed by the fact that today, it’s all about her.
At table, Boo slides a stuffed triangle onto her plate. A banana slice pops out of the corner and plops onto the table. “Whoops, ooh!” Boo giggles before swirling a goodly amount of Lyle’s syrup onto her stuffed toast. The amber fluid oozes lazily down the bread, its translucence glints in the morning sun. A bite: crunch! chew! “Oh Mom, this is so nice,” Boo says dreamily in between bites. She sips some of the milk through the pink straw that she chose earlier. “It’s going to be a delicious day.”
- 4 large, ripe, firm bananas
- ¾ cup walnuts, unsalted, lightly roasted
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 6-8 slices of 1/2–inch thick toast – I get mine from Bread Talk, Ji-Pan, or Yamato Bakery
- ½ - ¾ cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Peel bananas and cut into (thick-ish) rounds. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the walnuts and dark brown sugar. Give it a good stir then set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- On a large chopping board or work surface, generously spread each bread slice with peanut butter then top with the banana mixture. Be generous but do not let the mixture spill over the bread slice. Top each slice with another piece of bread (that has also been spread with peanut butter). Press down gently to seal. Continue with the remaining pieces of bread. I usually end up with about 3-4 “sandwiches.” Save some of the banana mixture for garnish.
- Place sandwiches in a shallow dish big enough to hold them in a single layer. I use a 13x9 Pyrex glass dish. Pour egg mixture over bread, making sure each slice is completely moistened. Let bread soak for 5 minutes. Using a long metal spatula, gently turn sandwiches over and let soak for another 5 minutes. Bread should be very wet, and there will be hardly any liquid left.
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Cook remaining banana mixture until sugar caramelizes and bananas have softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Turn off heat but leave mixture in pan.
- In a large pan, or a griddle if you have one, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Cook the sandwiches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add more butter to coat the pan if necessary, to cook the other sandwiches.
- Cut cooked French toasts into triangles, arrange on a large plate, and garnish with the warm banana mixture. I like serving this with Lyle’s syrup, but maple or pancake syrup is terrific too. If you want to push this breakfast treat into dessert territory, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.