“What a banner year it’s been for you, Lori!” Rainie, a Los Angeles-based DCF reader writes in his email to me. Truly it has been, a year that will indelibly be marked in my memory. And it ends with a bang with the inclusion of Dessert Comes First landing on the Inquirer’s List of the Top 10 Books of 2013. What an honor!
It’s the second to the last day of 2013. Today I do some house cleaning, both literal and digital. And I’m baking too.
Baked Ensaymada French Toast. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but a damn delicious one too. As part of my last holiday hurrah, I’m in the kitchen baking up a storm. I happen to have a largesse of ensaymadas on my hands and I’m in the mood to unload. Boo, my daughter, has been asking me to make French toast, so why not with ensaymadas, and why not put a spin on it?
I end up with something that I suppose others would call bread pudding but which I insist is French toast. Sliced ensaymadas – one half cheese, the other half smeared with cookie butter, lie in a lake of brown sugar and butter. These components introduce a dark caramel note bound by corn syrup. Then whoosh! a silken custard is poured over all and the ensaymadas soak it in, their bready, buttery mass becoming lush and flush with fluid.
This baked dish benefits from advance prep or baked right away, thus fulfilling my immediate need for gratification. Eaten hot with wisps of steam perfuming the air, the ensaymada’s edges are crackle-crisp, their middles molten with butter and hits of saltiness from the queso de bola. My Bin is not wild about cookie butter, so the ensaymadas with it are only on half of the baking dish. Goody, more for me then.
Eat this for breakfast. Or dinner. Or have breakfast for dinner. But have it soon, and have a happy new year!
Baked Ensaymada French Toast
Yield: 4-5 generous servings
1/4 cup / 2 ozs unsalted butter
½ cup / 4 ozs light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons corn syrup (light or dark); or honey if you prefer
4-5 large ensaymadas (Just enough to fill the baking pan).
3 large eggs
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir continuously until mixture is smooth and starts to simmer. Pour mixture into an 8×8 Pyrex glass baking dish or similar receptacle with an 8-cup capacity. Set aside.
Cut each ensaymada lengthwise into strips, no need to be exacting about it. Arrange ensaymadas in baking dish, squeezing to fit as necessary.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and salt until incorporated. Pour mixture over ensaymadas, making sure to cover entire surface and pressing down on ensaymadas as necessary so it will soak up liquid. Set aside.
If you’d like to eat this on the day it’s baked, preheat oven oven to 350°F. Set aside a baking sheet.
Dish can also be refrigerated to bake and eat the next day. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to bake it. Do not let ensaymada soak for more than 24 hours. When you’re ready to bake it, remove it from the chiller while preheating oven to specified temperature.
Put dish on baking sheet and bake ensaymada mixture until the edges are set and surface is golden and slightly toasty, about 25-30 minutes.
Serve immediately. Take this dish over the top with lashes of warmed caramel sauce and/or vanilla ice cream.