Mother's day is right around the corner. If your mom lives close by, I think you should spoil her with an indulgent french toast stuffed with creamy mascarpone cheese and sweet strawberries.
If you happen to have provinces, states, or an entire ocean separating you from your mom, I think you should still make Strawberry-Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast and eat it in her honour.
Also, you should make and mail her a doily card with lots of glue and glitter. Macaroni optional, but recommended.
Stuffed French Toast sounds daunting. It inspires fears of torn bread pockets and seeping filling and a mushy, eggy mess. Thankfully, this is not at all the case! It is actually a breeze to make. One of those things that looks impressive but is delightfully easy.
All you need to do is stir together a filling with creamy mascarpone and fresh strawberries, cut a pocket into some thick slices of bread, stuff in the filling, and proceed as you would with regular french toast.
Here are the tricks you need to know. Make sure your bread slices are an inch thick - use a ruler if you have to. Thinner, and you may tear your pocket. Thicker, and it will be too bready.
Then, make sure you stuff the filling in small bits at a time, using your fingers to shove it deeply into the pocket. It will be messy, in a totally satisfying way.
Make sure you dip your bread in the egg mixture only briefly. This french toast is slightly more delicate, and a long soak might cause it to fall apart.
Finally, monitor the cooking temperature - if it starts to get dark quickly, turn the burner right down. That's it!
The real key to making this over-the-moon delicious is to use the best ingredients - eggy challah bread or brioche is the foundation.
Mascarpone is a fresh cheese similar to ricotta, but richer - totally worth the splurge for mom! It is pricey, though - you might choose to make your own! Or you can absolutely use ricotta instead, and it'll still be fancy.
There is cream in the egg mixture. It is so worth it. This will be french toast like you have never experienced before.
I am very excited to have the recipe published in the newspaper in Vancouver today! It's in a special section on DIY Mother's Day gifts. Local friends, if you can find an issue, pick it up - they have lots of great ideas. Like an an awesome hanging herb garden in mason jars! (It will be posted on their website by the weekend, I will update this post with the link when it goes up!).
Strawberry-Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast
Serves 4 (or 2 with larger appetites) - the recipe may easily be doubled. You may swap the mascarpone for ricotta, if you like.
1 cup strawberries (about 6 medium)
3 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
4 1" thick slices egg bread (like brioche or challah) - about 1/2 an average loaf.
4 large eggs
1/2 cup cream (10% or 35% m.f.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional, but delicious!)
2 tablespoons butter
Confectioner's sugar and maple syrup for serving
For French Toast:
To make filling:
1. Remove stems from strawberries. Cut in half, and then slice crosswise. Combine strawberries and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl; set aside 10 minutes to let them release some juices.
2. In another bowl, use a wooden spoon to beat together mascarpone, vanilla extract, orange zest and remaining two tablespoons sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup of the juicy strawberries, reserving the remaining berries for serving with the finished french toast.
To make french toast:
3. Lay a slice of bread flat on a work surface. Hold one hand on top to hold it steady while you insert a serrated knife in the side crust to slice a deep, 3"-wide pocket. Repeat with remaining slices.
4. Use a small spoon to gently stuff the filling into the pockets. You'll use about 1/4 cup filling per slice, but work in increments of about 2 teaspoons at a time to avoid tearing the bread. Gently pat the out the bread to distribute the filling evenly within the pocket.
5. In a large, shallow bowl (or a 2" deep baking dish), whisk together eggs, cream sugar, vanilla extract, salt and Grand Marnier, if using. Preheat a skillet over medium heat.
6. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Working with one slice at a time, quickly dip the bread in the egg mixture, about 5 seconds per side. Do not let it sit and soak or it may fall apart.
7. Cook the french toast one slice at a time (or two if you have a large enough pan that your slices don't touch). Once the bottom is golden brown (about 3 minutes), use a spatula to gently flip it over. When the second side is golden (about 2 minutes more), remove from skillet and serve, or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you cook the rest, adding another 1/2 tablespoon of butter for each slice.
8. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve with maple syrup and remaining strawberries.