Although this version of French toast is baked in the oven, it still has that irresistible crunchy outside and fluffy inside. The trick is leaving it to sit overnight and allowing the bread to soften and soak up the unctuous maple and vanilla liquid. Make this dish the night before, ready to pop into the oven in the morning for a quick and easy brunch for family or friends. Ours is topped with a winning combination of crispy prosciutto, caramelised banana and Escuminac single-origin, organic maple syrup.

Serves 6

1 sourdough loaf or French stick
20g Lewis Road Creamery butter, softened
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
1 tsp Heilala vanilla extract or paste
¼ cup Escuminac late harvest dark maple syrup, plus extra to serve
½ cup Trickett's walnut pieces, roughly chopped
100g Sabato serrano or Pedrazzoli prosciutto
2 bananas, quartered lengthways

Cut the bread in 3cm thick slices. Use the butter to thickly butter a baking dish. Arrange the pieces of bread to cover the base of the dish – the bread should be tightly packed with minimal space in between.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with the salt until the yolks are broken up. Add milk, cream, vanilla and maple syrup and gently whisk by hand until fully combined. Pour egg mixture over the bread, saturating each piece as much as possible. Cover the baking dish and place in the refrigerator overnight, ideally, but for at least 3-4 hours if overnight is not possible. The longer the bread soaks in the liquid the softer and more delicious the final result will be.

Next day, preheat the oven to 180˚ C and bring the dish of French toast to room temperature. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until bread is puffy and the top is golden brown. At the same time, toast the walnuts (for approx. 10 minutes) until golden brown. Lay the slices of serrano or prosciutto on an oven tray. Top with a second oven tray (to stop the slices curling) and bake for 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Pan fry the slices of banana in a little olive oil for 1-2 minutes on each side until caramelised golden brown.

To serve, sprinkle the walnuts over the French toast. Place portions of French toast onto serving plates. Top with banana and serrano or prosciutto. Serve with a bottle of Escuminac maple syrup on the side, to pour over.

Recipe by Julie Le Clerc



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