Breakfast is one of my favorite eating occasions for one reason, I get to eat dessert first thing in the morning! As a kid, French toast was my go-to selection whenever dining out on the weekends with my family, or at home on Sunday mornings. French toast has evolved on restaurant menus to include versions using banana bread, baked like a custard in a cast iron pan, healthier whole wheat bread recipes, and even stuffed with rich fillings. I had made a fresh loaf of braided challah bread (a rich egg bread) and I did not want a single crumb to go to waste, so I decided to make an irresistible strawberry french toast recipe!
I’ve attempted many renditions of french toast over the years and I realized that I had been making two big mistakes. The first blooper was that the bread I was using was too fresh, causing the custard batter to soak and disintegrate the toast before frying. You know, brands like Rainbow or Wonder bread that is meant to last for weeks on end. Yes, those just don’t make for good french toast. The other problem was the bread was sliced too thin, which not having pre-cut slices is the best option so you can control the thickness. I have found that 3/4-inch is a good slice size for french toast. If you have time to do some home baking or have a local bakery that makes fresh challah bread, that is absolutely the bread you should chose for the french toast recipe, I promise it is worth it and it will give you the best french toast you’ve ever tasted!
Right now strawberries are coming into season, and you don’t need much sugar to make the berries extra sweet. For the strawberry topping, I added just a hint of granulated sugar, fresh lemon juice and peel to balance the sweetness of the berries with a little bit of tartness. Adding a little bit of sugar to cut berries helps to naturally bring out the juices from the fruit and become slightly thickened from the pectin in the berry. The challah bread I used was perfect for french toast because it is sturdy and thick enough to allow for the spiced honey custard mixture to easily soak up into the bread without becoming mushy or hard to fry. This gave the perfect crunchy texture on the exterior of the toast and a tender and moist custard interior of the bread.
To make this strawberry french toast recipe even more decadent, I combined rich cream cheese with a little bit of powdered sugar and strawberry jam. The combination of the golden brown and crispy outside of the pan fried toast, stuffed with the sweet and tangy cream cheese filling, and topped with fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar made for one of my favorite french toast recipes so far! I also love Pure Maple Syrup so I wasn’t shy about adding a little extra to the strawberry french toast. I can’t wait to make this recipe for my friends and family on the weekends for brunch, or for a special occasion like Mother’s day!
TIP- French toast is also commonly known as “pain perdu” or “lost bread”, in French and New Orleans cuisine. French toast is best made with leftover, stale bread that has dried out a bit. Soaking the thick cut stale bread in a sweet milk and egg mixture, then pan frying frying to a golden brown helps to save that bread from being wasted or thrown away. Definitely a delicious way to enjoy your favorite fresh baked breads the next morning!
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 6 large eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 10 slices day old bread, cut into ¾-inch slices (Challah bread recommended)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- As needed, powdered sugar for dusting
- 10 ounces cream cheese
- 5 tablespoons strawberry jam
- 5 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 2-1/4 cup sliced strawberries
- ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
- 2-1/4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Slice bread to ¾-inch thick slices.
- Combine batter ingredients with a whisk.
- Dip the bread in the batter, 30 seconds on each side. Transfer to a sheet tray and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes before cooking to allow the batter to soak into the center of the bread.
- In a medium sized nonstick pan, add ½ tablespoon of butter. Heat over medium heat until butter has melted. Add 2 slices of French toast. Cook until golden brown 2-3 minutes per side. Wipe down the pan and add another ½ tablespoon of butter and cook remaining slices 2 at a time. Repeat process until all of the slices have been cooked.
- Spread each slice with about 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry cream cheese filling. Top with about ¼ cup of the strawberry topping. Dust the French toast with powdered sugar. Eat warm and enjoy!