Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to make a delicious brunch for your special someone. But beyond that, any weekend is a good excuse to whip up a tasty brunch, especially one that kicks it up a notch.
This irresistible French toast is all about the contrast between the custardy center and the toasty pecan coating—and adding panko breadcrumbs to the pecans means extra crunch, says chef and cookbook author Molly Stevens, who created this recipe for Real Food. Baking the thick slices ensures the centers turn out tender and fluffy rather than soggy, says Stevens—and it leaves your hands free to cook your favorite sausages or bacon to serve alongside.
Pecan-Crusted French Toast
Makes 6 Servings
1½ cups pecans, whole or pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, divided
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon plus pinch kosher salt, divided
6 large eggs
1½ cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 to 12 slices bread, about ¾-inch thick (see Cook’s Notes)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
confectioners’ sugar or other favorite topping (see Cook’s Notes)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and generously butter a baking sheet (a rimless one if possible).
- Combine the pecans and ¼ cup brown sugar in a food processor, and pulse until chopped medium-fine. Add the panko, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pulse just to combine, transfer to a plate or shallow baking pan, and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs and the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Whisk in the half-and-half, vanilla, lemon zest, remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Pour half the mixture into a pie plate or shallow baking pan. Put as many slices of bread as will fit at once into the pan, and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the slices, and soak until bread is well saturated, another 2 to 3 minutes.
- One by one, lift the bread slices from the egg mixture, letting the excess run off and back into the dish, and press the bread into the pecan mixture. Turn the bread to coat all sides, pressing down so the pecan mixture adheres. Arrange the coated bread slices on the prepared baking sheet. Continue with the remaining slices, adding more egg mixture to the pie pan as needed until all the bread is soaked and coated.
- Drizzle the tops of the bread with the melted butter and bake, flipping halfway, until the bread is toasty and brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or any other favorite topping.
• Bread with a fine-crumbed texture is best for soaking up the delectable custard, and thick slices provide the best contrast of tender interior and crusty outside. Good choices are honey-oat, whole-wheat, Challah or old-fashioned sandwich bread. The number of slices you need will depend on the dimensions of the loaf. For instance, if it’s a big round loaf, 1 slice per person should be enough. If using a sandwich loaf, count 2 slices per person. French toast is a great way to use up stale bread, but a fresh loaf works, too.
• This French toast has so much going for it that it doesn’t need any adornment beyond the simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but it’s also wonderful with fresh or sautéed fruit spooned over top. Try caramelized pears, bananas, fresh berries or a few spoonfuls of gently warmed fruit preserves.
Nutrition info (per serving) Pecan-Crusted French Toast: Calories 604 (326 From Fat); Fat 38g (Sat. 11g); Chol 223mg; Sodium 723mg; Carb 52g; Fiber 5g; Protein 16g
Hungry for More?
Try these Cornmeal Waffles with Bacon, Parmesan and Black Pepper
These savory waffles are packed with flavor and crunch. Serve them as-is or slather on a bit of Salted Honey Butter for an extra special treat.