For a French toast that goes above and beyond, try it with crème anglaise.
3 1/2 cups whole milk, preferably organic
2 cups heavy cream, preferably organic
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/4 cup brandy
1 to 2 braided challah loaves, preferably 2 to 3 days old
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing pan
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Maple syrup, for drizzling
Let's get Cooking...
In a medium-sized sauce pot, combine milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla beans and scraped seeds as well as the vanilla extract. Whisk together and bring to a low simmer.
In a medium bowl, combine the yolks and sugar, and whisk together. Add the salt and brandy, and whisk until all combined. Once the milk mixture is up to a simmer, whisk some of it into the eggs to temper them. Continue by adding the remaining heated milk to the eggs. Whisk to combine, and discard the vanilla beans.
Pour about 1 cup of the mixture back into the pan, leaving the rest in the bowl for the bread. Bring the 1 cup mixture up to a simmer, and cook until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed.
Butter all sides of a 9 by 13 pan. Slice the bread into 1-inch-thick slices. Taking 1 slice at a time, dip into the mixture and soak for 30 seconds. Place into the greased baking dish. Continue with all of the slices, shingling the bread into rows when you add to the pan. Pour remaining mixture over the bread. Place in the fridge, covered, for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread, tented with foil, for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of sugar and top with the almonds. Place back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Broil on high for 5 minutes to caramelize the sugar.
Remove and let cool slightly before serving. To serve, scoop out a few slices, drizzle with maple syrup and reserved crème anglaise.