Sunday, August 21, 2011

French Toast Varieties (milk mix is GF)

French Toast made with Wheat Raisin Bread
I really thought when I went vegan I would just have to live the rest of my life without French Toast.  I have always loved French Toast and it is by far my favorite breakfast dish, but I was willing to give it up in the name of good health in an effort to influence my family.  But I was perusing Ellen DeGeneres' new website Going Vegan with Ellen,  found a recipe for Pecan Crusted French Toast and was truly inspired.

First of all, I want to thank Ellen for being an out and proud vegan.  I love to see more and more famous people come out of the closet and live true to their vegan selves.  It makes it easier on the rest of us who have been living in secret for too long.  It helps our families to see that we aren't freaks or hippies or weirdos, we are just people who want to live our lives without ingesting animal products.  And that's okay.

So where was I?  Oh yeah, I love French Toast.  My kids love French Toast.  And I love to serve up special versions of French Toast for guests or brunches.  So I started experimenting with some of the recipes I've found online and in cook books.  I admit, though, that I like Ellen's version the best.  I only tweaked it a tiny bit to create the standard milk mixture for French Toast, and then I built on her recipe for my baked versions.  I totally give credit to her website for these recipes.  Thanks again, Ellen!

KID NOTE: I use any leftover milk mixture to make boring French Toast.  Let it cool and put it in the freezer.  My kids eat it like a toaster waffle--just pull it out of the freezer, pop it in the toaster and then dip in syrup for a quick school day breakfast.  That way they get a good breakfast and I don't waste food.

GLUTEN FREE NOTE:  The milk mixture used for all of these is a Gluten-Free mix.  I have only limited experience with GF breads, but I think you could make this work if you soak it for a while first.  It may require a little more milk than other breads, too.  I'd be curious to hear from you if you've tried it. 

MAPLE SYRUP NOTE:  I buy the sugar-free syrup for my kids and daycare kids for regular boring days.  But I use the expensive REAL maple syrup for weekends and guests.  It makes a world of difference.  Well worth the price.

BUTTER NOTE:  I like the Best Life butter sticks for this one.  It doesn't actually say it's vegan on the package, but I think it is.  If not, then it has "less than 2%" of anything non-vegan and I don't really worry about that.  In my opinion, it tastes better than the Earth Balance.  We also like the Smart Balance Lite.

FRENCH TOAST VARIETIES
STANDARD MILK BASE
1 1/2 c. soy or rice milk (non flavored)
3 T. cornstarch
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. nutmeg
6 T. brown rice flour
Whisk all together until smooth and no lumps.

BORING FRENCH TOAST
Dip slices of bread in milk base before cooking on a greased griddle.  Use vegan butter, canola oil, coconut oil, or whatever oil you prefer. This mixture sticks a little bit, so wait to turn it until it is browned and comes off the pan easily.  Serve with maple syrup, flavored syrup, fruit or powdered sugar on top.

A LITTLE LESS BORING FRENCH TOAST
Try different types of bread such as Wheat-Raisin, Apple Bread (great bread from Dutch Oven in Ames), or even quick breads like banana or pumpkin.  Try bagels or English muffins.
Also, you could add a little more flavor to the milk mixture.  Stir in 2 T. of amaretto or spiced rum, or try 1 t. almond extract or orange extract instead of the vanilla.

PECAN CRUSTED FRENCH TOAST
Dip your bread in the milk mixture and then dip just one side in finely chopped pecans to coat it.  Cook pecan side down (use plenty of vegan butter or coconut oil to prevent burning/sticking), then flip carefully and cook the other side.  Watch your nuts carefully so they don't burn!  I like this version made with the Wheat Raisin Bread.

BAKED CARAMEL FRENCH TOAST (OVERNIGHT)
2 T. maple syrup or corn syrup
1/2 c. vegan butter (I like Best Life)
1 c. brown sugar
About 10-12 slices bread, crusts cut off
Milk mixture (from above)

Cook syrup, butter and brown sugar over low heat just until all combined and sugar is melted completely.  Pour mixture into a 9x13" pan (or two smaller pans) that has been sprayed with Pam cooking spray. 

(You will need to flip these pans over when they are very hot, so plan accordingly with your pans! I find it's easier to flip two 8x8" pans than to try to flip a big one. I also like to make two smaller ones so I can add nuts to one and leave the other plain. Be careful since that caramel mix will stick to you and burn.)

Place bread over the top of the syrup mix, layering as needed.  Pour milk mixture over the top and cover pan with plastic wrap.  Let sit in refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, remove plastic wrap and cover with foil.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to cook another 5-20 minutes until bread is cooked and not totally mushy (time depends on the type of bread you use).

Once out of the oven, immediately flip pan over onto a baking sheet and let the caramel drizzle down over the top.  Cut into squares and serve immediately.

BEST BAKED FRENCH TOAST (OVERNIGHT)
Use the same method as the Baked Caramel, except sprinkle 1 cup chopped pecans in the syrup mixture before topping with the bread.  Use good french bread with the crusts removed.  Serve with real maple syrup and a big platter of fresh fruit.  Yum!

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