Turn an ordinary breakfast or brunch into extraordinary with Buttermilk Vanilla French Toast. Fluffy slices of french toast are slathered in a thick and fruity Blackberry Cinnamon Syrup.
This indulgent french toast recipe is perfect for a holiday brunch. Add some roasted walnuts for crunch.
One of my first restaurant jobs while in cooking school was working brunch service. I was given the jobs that you couldn't screw up like making fruit plates, tending to the breakfast potatoes, and making salads. When I think back on how long it took me to make the fruit plates, I shudder. I wanted them to be a work of art, so incredibly aesthetically pleasing, no one could question my culinary prowess.
Once I had worked out the kinks in my fruit plate assemblage and worked at a faster pace, my responsibilities changed. One of my new weekly jobs was preparing the french toast. One of the most popular menu items, I had the recipe memorized and would tackle its prep first thing in the morning when I arrived. While I still made the fruit plates, it was a refreshing change to be responsible for this menu item.
A few years later, I still had the responsibility of making french toast. However, the customers were my children. While I didn't have to make the same volume as the restaurant, these customers were no less important!
The difference though is that french toast is a special occasion breakfast in our home. We tend to stick to eggs, yogurt, or cereal for a quick bite in the morning.
But at every holiday or event, they expect french toast, front and center. So I don't disappoint. These are the times for an indulgent breakfast or brunch spread. Something rich and flavorful to savor as we slow down the pace to celebrate and enjoy being together with friends and family.
French toast tips
I have big demands for good french toast. The bread is important - nothing too chewy or with a predominant flavor. The crumb needs to be tender but have structure. That is why I like challah. Its slight sweetness matches well with all the syrup that is ladled on. Plus the crust of challah has that beautiful color and sheen.
I want a thick slice that is fluffy and golden brown. The batter is eggy and sweet. I should be able to see that the bread has soaked up batter all the way through. The bread will puff up as it cooks providing it has been properly soaked.
One of my favorite additions to french toast is fruit. We often have some type of berry sauce in addition to maple syrup. And I prefer real maple syrup and the caramel notes it provides.
This isn't time for restraint. Break out a vanilla bean, warm and toasty spices, and butter. I mean, we pile it on when it is french toast time. There is no better opportunity for french toast than a holiday brunch!
Caramelized fruit sauce
I like to make fruit sauces or syrups with a caramel base. The cooked sugar stabilizes the sauce so it doesn't separate. Puree the fruit with a blender or a food processor. If you have a high speed blender, all the better, the seeds will be pulverized. But if you don't, pour the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to catch any seeds. It is best to have the puree waiting off to the side while the caramel is cooking.
Add the sugar and water to a saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved you can turn up the heat to medium-high. Now just watch the pan. Don't walk away - it will burn. Take my word for it. I've done it, a lot.
It takes about 10 minutes for the sugar to turn an amber color. Now add the puree, being careful to avoid splatters. The sugar will seize and the puree will bubble quite a bit. Carefully stir the sauce with a wooden spoon or a high heat spatula until the sugar has melted again and everything is combined. Set to the side.
While this step is easy, I feel it is one of the more important. Combine buttermilk with whole eggs, mixing completely so that the yolks and whites are incorporated. Now is the time for the flavor components. I add brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and orange zest. For a touch of luxury, I use a real vanilla bean. The scent alone is worth it. Scrape out the seeds and use the rest of the pod for another use like vanilla sugar. You can always use one teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.
For a few reasons, the recipe makes more batter than is required for a single loaf of challah. Depending on the size of your guest list, you may need more french toast than 8ish slices. More importantly, the bread needs to be submerged, at least halfway. To get a decent piece of french toast, the bread should be moist with batter, not dry inside. But watch to make sure the bread isn't disintegrating while it is soaking.
It takes approximately 30 minutes to fully soak the slices of bread. I flip them after 15 minutes to the other side.
The rest is easy
You can use a nonstick skillet or a griddle to cook the french toast. Give the slices room in the pan or on the griddle. If too crowded and touching, the slices will stick together. Cooking over medium heat for about 4 minutes a side, the bread should be golden brown and crusty.
If you are making many slices, have the oven set at about 200 degrees. Place the cooked french toast in the oven to stay warm.
A fun option for a brunch is to offer many options. Have some extra toppings available like different fresh fruits, roasted nuts, and different flavored syrups. I like the combination of the blackberries with roasted walnuts. The buttermilk vanilla flavor of the french toast is very adaptable to different tastes - give it a tropical twist with mango or the popular strawberry banana combo.
When my children were young, we couldn't bring ourselves to tear them away from their gifts to travel to see their relatives. So we made it a tradition to have brunch at our home. Brunch had to be tasty and unique. This year is no different - we will be enjoying Buttermilk Vanilla French Toast with Blackberry Cinnamon Syrup.
Make this recipe for your special brunch and start your own traditions!
Other special brunch recipes - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/baked-eggs-and-savory-bread-pudding
Buttermilk Vanilla French Toast
- fine mesh strainer
- small bowl
- saucepan for blackberry syrup
- medium bowl
- glass baking dish
- nonstick skillet or griddle for french toast
Blackberry Cinnamon Syrup
- 12 ounces blackberries 240 grams
- ½ cup granulates sugar 4 ounces/113 grams
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Buttermilk Vanilla French Toast
- 1 loaf challah bread 15 ounces/424 grams
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk 473 mls
- 1 cup light brown sugar 6.4 ounces/182 grams
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 vanilla bean
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
Blackberry Cinnamon Syrup
- The first step is to puree the blackberries. Rinse the berries and place them in a blender. Process until the berries have been completely pureed.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl. Pour the puree through the strainer to catch the blackberry seeds. If you have a high speed blender, the seeds may have been pulverized. But it helps to strain the puree just in case.
- To make the syrup, caramel is being made first and the puree is being added. In a small saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water.
- Over medium heat, melt the sugar until it has dissolved in the water. You can turn up the heat to medium-high at this point. It takes about 10 minutes for the sugar to turn an amber color. The temperature of the sugar syrup will be approximately 320 degrees and can burn easily. It helps to have the puree next to the stove so that you can add it once the temperature of the sugar is high enough.
- Being careful to avoid splatters, add the blackberry puree to the caramelized sugar. There will be steam and the puree will bubble up once it hits the caramel. The caramel will seize from the addition of the fruit puree.
- Using a wooden spoon or high heat spatula, stir the blackberry caramel combination until the sugar has melted and is combined with the puree. This will take about 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla extract, stirring to combine.
- Pour the syrup into a bowl so that it can cool. It will continue to thicken.
Buttermilk Vanilla French Toast
- Cut a loaf of challah bread into 1-inch slices.
- In a medium bowl, combine 8 eggs with 2 cups of buttermilk, 1 cup of light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of orange zest, ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoons of cardamom. Split a vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the bowl. If you don't have a vanilla bean, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a baking dish. Add the bread slices to the baking dish, submerging them into the buttermilk. After 15 minutes, flip the slices over. The bread will soak for a total of 30 minutes. This is to make sure that the interior of the slice is soaked so that the french toast will be fluffy.
- After 30 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a skillet. If you are using a griddle, add the butter once the griddle is hot.
- When the butter is bubbling, add a couple of slices to the skillet. Make sure the bread is not touching or is crowded in the skillet. If you are using a griddle, add lay the slices with room in between.
- With medium heat, toast the bread for approximately 4 minutes per side until golden brown. The french toast will puff up a little as the interior of the bread is cooked. Continue to cook the remaining slices, adding more butter as needed.
- Serve with the blackberry cinnamon syrup and some additional berries. Roasted walnuts are a nice addition.