Recently, after years of disappointment, I rediscovered a love for IHOP. As an adult, IHOP had up until now never met the high standards that my childhood memories had established. I couldn’t stand the overly sweet, sticky and thick fruit sauces on my pancakes, not to mention getting squicked out by the usual breakfast place’s complete ignoring of any rational idea of portion control. But now, I am back on the IHOP love train! Granted, it took a little bit of libational overindulgence to get me to crave going to one in the first place, but that visit, with its straightforward and prompt service, far exceeded my expectations. I would definitely lobby for a Congressional order that all IHOPs be open 24/7.
Although I normally don’t like sweet things for breakfast, the exception seems to be french toast. That night, inhibitions lowered, I ordered cream cheese stuffed cinnamon toast. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything I’d ever eaten before that had been as delicious! Memories (as misty as they might be) of that french toast, fueled on by catching glimpses of a Bobby Flay Throwdown on stuffed french toast just egged on (get it? egged on– ha!) a craving to make a stuffed french toast for breakfast. With leftover strawberries, blueberries, and cream cheese from a July 4th dessert, I had the fixings to make the craving a reality.
I cut thick slices of challah and soaked them in a custard mixture of eggs, cream, orange zest, plenty of cinnamon, and a generous pinch of cardamom. The sliced strawberries and juicy blueberries were mixed with vanilla sugar and macerated while I griddled the toast. When I had lovely, golden and crispy pieces of french toast, I spread a thick layer of my cream cheese mixture (lightly sweetened so it still had plenty of tang) on a piece of toast then sandwiched the berries in between. This breakfast was more indulgent than usual, especially with a healthy dousing of maple syrup, but oh so worth it. Add your coffee maker carafe to the table and it’ll be almost like bringing IHOP home with you.
Note: I used about half of the cream cheese filling the day before, piping it into hulled strawberries and topping with a blueberry as a decoration for July 4th cupcakes. That means that the filling recipe below should be enough to make 4 servings; however, the ingredients for the toast were enough to serve two. So if serving four, double the slices of bread and the berries. You should likely have enough custard filling to soak all the bread slices.
- 1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
- 3/4 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or substitute 1 tablespoon regular sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1.5 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 thick slices of challah or brioche
- 3 large eggs
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- large pinch cardamom
- canola or vegetable oil
Mix together berries and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
In a small Pyrex baking dish, whisk together the eggs, cream, granulated sugar, salt, orange zest, cinnamon, and cardamom. Soak two slices of bread in the custard mixture. Pour enough oil into a large heavy bottomed skillet so that the oil coats the skillet completely. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Having ensured that both sides of the bread soaking in the custard are coated, set the toast in the pan when the oil is hot. Adjust flame to medium and fry bread until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in an oven at 185 degrees F. Continue process with other pieces of bread until all are cooked golden brown.
To plate: spread about 1/4 cup of cream cheese filling on piece of french toast and scatter berries on top. Top with another slice of french toast. Serve warm with plenty of maple syrup.
CSA Count: 1