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The Easter “Dessert” I Make Every Year

It’s a total showstopper.

<p>Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee</p>

Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee

The first time I ever had crème brûlée French toast was at a family friend’s house, and I remember thinking it should be illegal because of how delicious it was. Thick slices of bread are baked until creamy and custardy in the middle with a golden layer of crunchy caramelized sugar on top. Talk about dessert for breakfast!

When it comes to hosting brunch—whether a casual weekend get-together, family gathering, or Easter brunch—my favorite part is always dreaming up the sweet treat, and this crème brûlée French toast is one of my go-to recipes. It always impresses and is absolutely delicious.

This French toast, courtesy of Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen, is surprisingly simple to make with lots of hands-off time. You won't even need a blowtorch. When you’re done, you’ll have custardy slices of toast under a lid of caramelized sugar waiting to be shattered.

<p>Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee</p>

Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee

How I Make Smitten Kitchen’s Crème Brûlée French Toast

Start by slicing your bread (preferably brioche or challah) into six thick slices about 1 1/2 inches thick. Don’t skimp on the thickness here, as the generous height is part of the charm and allows for a deeply custardy interior.

For the custard, I combine milk, heavy cream, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. I typically use vanilla extract or paste instead of a vanilla bean, and I omit the Grand Marnier in favor of 1/4 teaspoon orange zest.

Depending on the size of my bread, I use a 9x13-inch baking dish or half-sheet pan to arrange the bread slices in a single layer and pour the custard over them. You might be alarmed at how much custard this recipe makes for just six thick slices, but I promise the bread will absorb it all! Halfway through the soak, flip the slices of bread over for even absorption.

While I like having the make-ahead option of letting the bread sit overnight in the custard, I usually assemble it the day of since it only takes 30 minutes to soak in the custard.

Transfer the soaked bread slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 325°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping halfway through.

A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, add 2/3 cup granulated sugar in an even layer to a clean, dry saucepan. Let the sugar cook over medium heat, undisturbed, until it's mostly melted before stirring in any remaining dry sugar from the edges.

As soon as all the sugar is melted and turns honey-colored, work as quickly as possible to pour a generous tablespoon of the caramel over each slice and spread it evenly with an offset spatula before it sets up.

<p>Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee</p>

Simply Recipes / Erika Kwee

Recipe Variations I’ve Tried

I love serving this recipe with fresh berries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I’ve tried making this a few different ways and confirm that the below variations work:

  • Use all milk: I recommend following the original recipe for the best results, but in a pinch, you can swap the mix of heavy cream and milk for all whole milk. It won't be as rich or decadent.

  • Use the broiler: If you don’t want to fuss with making the caramel, you can sprinkle a generous layer of sugar on the baked toasts and place them under your broiler until caramelized. Keep a close eye on the toasts while broiling—this method isn’t perfect as you can end up with spots of burnt sugar and divots of unmelted sugar if your toasts aren’t level.

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