1 large loaf challah or brioche bread, or 8-10 thick sliced white bread
3 egg yolks
1 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream* or half & half
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg, optional
extra granulated sugar, for caramelizing
butter, for frying
oil, for frying
Creme fraiche (I got a jar at met market)
Toasted walnuts (stick walnuts in 350 oven for ten mins)
Strawberry compote (place sliced strawberries, lemon juice, tsp honey in pot and simmer)
Choose your bread. If you like very thick french toast (you should try it at least once!), find a local bakery and get yourself a loaf of challah or brioche bread (buy a day-old loaf if they have it.) I don't like using French bread or the regular loaves you find in the deli at the grocery store; the crusts turn out too chewy. You want a nice soft edge. If you can't get to a bakery, head to the grocery store and buy the thickest and softest white bread you can find. (3/4 inch or thicker.)
Slice your bread with a serrated knife if you are working with a whole loaf. See photos. I like my slices to be about 1 and 1/4 inch thick, which feels a little ridiculous, but trust me. You can even go up to 2 inches if you're feeling wild. Don't slice thinner than 3/4 inch.
Set your bread aside, spread out so that it gets a little dried out. Day old bread is great for French toast. In France, they call this dish "Lost Bread" because it's what you make when you have dried out bread to use up.
Make the egg mixture. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl,* whisk together 3 egg yolks, 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream* or half & half, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg, if you like. Whisk until it is completely smooth and the cinnamon is well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into a shallow dish like a pie plate, or an 8x8 inch pan. Place a slice of bread in the mixture and let it sit there for 10 to 20 seconds. How long you soak it depends on how thick your bread is. It should be soft when you touch it, but still hold itself together. Flip the bread and soak the other side. You can start cooking the French toast right away, or you can place the soaked bread on a baking sheet or plate while you finish soaking all of them.
Cook the French toast: Heat an electric griddle or large 12 inch skillet over medium low heat. When it is hot, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or any oil with a high smoke point.) Swirl it around until the pan is coated. Place the French toast on the pan with 1 to 2 inches in between each slice of bread. Cook on medium low heat for 3-5 minutes. The timing depends on your oven or griddle, so stick around and keep an eye on it
Caramelize. When the bottom of the first side is LIGHT brown (we are going to cook this side twice), sprinkle about a half tablespoon granulated sugar on the top (raw) side of the bread. Flip the toast, sugar side down, and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. (Be sure to swirl the pan so oil re-coats it, or add more butter/oil if necessary). Then, sprinkle another half tablespoon of sugar on the cooked side, and flip it over again so that it lightly caramelizes the first side.
Keep your toast warm. Preheat your oven to the "keep warm" setting, about 170 degrees F. As you finish frying the toast, transfer each one to a wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Keep toast warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Top with small amount of compote, creme fraiche, fresh strawberries and toasted walnuts.
Keep leftovers stored covered in the fridge. It will keep for 3-5 days. You can reheat leftovers in the microwave or the toaster. Or heat your oven to 350 and heat the toast all together on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, until the toast is warmed, about 5-10 minutes