Let’s talk French toast.
Are you a fan? I am, but only every once in a great while. I am a savory breakfast girl through and through, and I really need to be in the mood for something sweet if I’m going to splurge over half my daily calories on French toast. Most of the time, I’m hoping and praying that whomever I’m eating breakfast with will order pancakes or French toast just so I can have a bite or two. That’s all I need to chase down my huevos rancheros or quiche.
BUT when I do go for it, I go all in. Because that’s the only way. I’m talking super rich, eggy challah bread soaked in a creamy cinnamon-scented custard and then stuffed with something awesome. Chocolate. Nutella. Pecan praline. Or, in this case, fresh strawberries and sweetened cream cheese. YES.
I don’t think I’m the only one who, as a kid, only wanted the artificial maple syrup on my pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Legit maple syrup was too…maple-y for me. Thank goodness my palate has evolved over the years. I ADORE real maple syrup these days. It’s sweet, smoky, and almost has a savory edge to it. LOVE. IT.
When brainstorming this French toast, though, I knew that I wanted to turn plain ol’ maple syrup into something a little more special. I decided to echo the fresh fruit from the stuffing. And then strawberry maple syrup was born. Believe it or not, the strawberries actually lighten this whole shebang up a bit. Sure, it’s still plenty rich, dense, and sugary, but the strawberries just give it that little fresh edge. Brightens things up, if you will.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this breakfast stunner is a sure points earner for you. Make it for your special someone and watch their eyes light up. Many “mmm’s” are sure to ensue. I mean, strawberries are already super romantic, right? They practically look like little fruit hearts.
So cute. So yummy.
1 cup hulled and chopped fresh strawberries
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup maple syrup
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
½ cup thinly sliced fresh strawberries
4 (2–in thick) slices of challah or brioche bread
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of fine salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs
Melted butter, for the pan
Additional sliced strawberries, for garnish
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Place the strawberries in a small saucepan with the lemon juice, zest, and a couple tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the strawberries are soft and the mixture has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and keep warm until ready to serve.
Mix together the cream cheese and sugar until well combined. Fold in the strawberries. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Set aside.
Place each slice of bread on its side and, using a sharp knife, cut a pocket horizontally into each piece of bread, being careful not to go all the way to the edges.
Whisk together the milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and eggs.
Pipe the strawberry cream filling into each slice of bread and place in the milk mixture, allowing it to sit for 20 seconds per side. Continue with the remaining bread.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and liberally brush with melted butter. Cook each slice of French toast until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Serve warm and topped with powdered sugar, additional fresh strawberries, and the strawberry maple syrup.