Heaven & Hell

I had a really weird experience with 7-minute frosting about a month ago.

I have, on my wordpress dashboard, a half-written post about how I really messed up the frosting for my mom’s birthday cake. It was so unfortunate, I couldn’t bring myself to publish the pictures. I had crafted this amazing, sumptuous vanilla cake. It was all super-yellow irish butter and whole vanilla bean goodness. The batter was a voluminous mousse of what appeared to be lighter-than-air vanilla pudding. While it baked, a heavenly vanilla scent filled my apartment.

Deciding that this cake was perfect in every way, I set about deciding on the perfect flavors to accompany such a cake. I would turn some egg yolks (I have a bowl in my freezer containing no fewer than 2 dozen yolks…more on that later) into a raspberry curd fit for the finest vanilla gelato. I’d lighten the curd with freshly whipped cream, and make a giant raspberry whipped-cream sandwich on perfect vanilla cake. I’d top it with great swoops of marshmallowy 7-minute frosting. What could be better?

Probably nothing, if that was how it had actually gone down.

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deb’s working class french toast

My dad taught me a lot about cooking when I was very young. I learned to make pizza dough and pancake batter from scratch before I was ten. Dad usually made dinner and Mom only really cooked for my sisters and me when he was away. She’d almost always make french toast for dinner and often, my dad would complain that he felt terrible about the way we had to eat when he was on the road. Maybe my sisters missed his fancy steaks and sweet potato fries and grilled salmon, but I was always more than happy to sit in the living room, eating my absolute favorite breakfast while I watched some weeknight sitcom lineup.

Perhaps ironically, I didn’t learn to make my mom’s french toast until I was nearly out of the house. Maybe it was more magical not to know, but enlightenment has made this simple breakfast an absolute staple. For my first several attempts I would repeatedly ask my mom, how much sugar? or how much milk? It took a while to feel out the ratios and get it just right. These days, it’s second nature. I can light the burners and have my custard ready before the pan’s heated.

More than easy, this french toast in unpretentious and inexpensive. You probably have everything you need and if you don’t, just leave it out. Unless it’s eggs or bread… It’s also really generous. You’ll get a ton of food for each person. If you aren’t as hungry as I am when I make this, save the custard for the next time you are hungry (Maybe later that day? I wouldn’t keep it too long.) Make this in the mornings for the one who nudges you awake and reads your silly blog or the one who coughs up half the rent. Make it in the evenings and enjoy it while you catch up on your stories.

deb’s working class french toast
serves two

for the custard
4 eggs
1/2ish cup milk or heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff, of course)

In a shallow baking dish or pie dish, use a fork to go to town on the eggs. You can also use a whisk, but I find that a fork is really the best tool for this job, since we’re working in a shallow dish and really just combining stuff.

Add the milk, sugar, and vanilla and make sure you work it in really well with the eggs, which can be a little resistant their additions but should come around. I like to put a lot of cinnamon in my french toast, but put in as much as you think you’d like. You really won’t taste it that much, which is why I go kind of heavy. You can alternately sprinkle cinnamon on your finished french toast but that’s not what Deb did…

Dip slices of bread into your custard, being sure to saturate both sides, and cook them on a griddle or saute pan that’s been preheated over a medium flame and greased. I use cheap white loaf bread (bimbo or saralee if I just got paid or I’m celebrating something. wink.) which I keep in the freezer. You can actually get awesome french toast using the still frozen slices. I have yet to find a white bread that doesn’t work. I have also never found a wheat bread that does work. That’s a warning to you. I like wheat bread, but not in my french toast.

Occasionally, I get bread from the bakery where I work, or use bread I’ve made for the french toast. When I do this, I still tend to go with simple white breads, as I feel they yield optimum nostalgia and flavor. However, anyone who is a fan of this dish will already be aware that you can get amazing french toast from fruity breads such as panettone, or fancy high fat breads such as challah and broiche. I maintain that the custard is where it’s at, and that my mom’s working class french toast is the best that I have ever had. And I can’t remember ever seeing a name brand or artisan loaf of bread in the house.

I’m not a proponent of putting butter on your french toast. Strictly syrup for me, but do what makes you happy. Thanksgiving morning, I made myself this french toast and served it with some chantilly and bits of pecan.