Can you smell it?
Go on, try. Lean out the nearest window and take a whiff. There; can you smell it now? That crisp, coldly sweet, slightly smoky hint to the air? That new leather boots (half-off at Macy’s) and checkered scarf smell? That burning leaves, baking maple-pumpkin pie aroma? That’s autumn, my friends. Yes, fall is upon us and it’s wearing expensive, designer perfume.
It smells like victory.
Actually, in the interests of accuracy, fall is very nearly gone – chased off by it’s bigger, meaner brother, Winter – but it can be hard to keep track of that living on an island. Hawaii doesn’t have much of a seasonal landscape and so it’s easy to forget about the shift. I'm always shocked whenever I venture out to the mainland, like now. Take the west coast of Canada, for instance; boy,does the scenery ever smack you in the kisser with it’s bold and beautiful colours. It left me feeling nostalgic and inspired to mimic some of that flavour.
French toast is one of those comfort foods that’s willing to go the extra mile and become whatever you want to make it. It lends itself effortlessly to many flavour profiles but it’s an old-fashioned kind o’ meal at heart and so it really shines when it’s submerged in rustic, hearty incarnations.
The first step is simply to roast some pretty, crisp apples and you can do this the day before making the toast, to save time. I like the combination of Macintosh and Granny Smith; a little sweet, a little sour and a whole lotta good. Combine slices with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and lemon juice; basically, make yourself a crustless apple pie!
Resist the urge to eat it by the spoonful. Trust me, it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Now, for the rest of the cast:
You’re going to want to pick a bread that’s going to stand up to the egg batter – something hearty and meaningful and stick-to-your-ribs delicious, the grainier the better. Even a well made sweetbread would work marvelously. It helps to let it get juuuust a bit stale, too – leave it out on the counter for a few days; this helps it from getting gloppy or falling apart in the pan.
Heat yo’ oven up again, to that magical baking temperature, 375F.
Whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, vanilla extract, maple syrup and enough milk to make a fairly substantial dip for the bread. Think somewhere between custard and crepe batter in terms of consistency.
et your bread slices soak up some of that fall goodness and then slap ‘em into a buttery pan for about two minutes on each side. You want it to brown up nicely but not cook all the way through.
And now, kids, it’s time to get our Yenta on and make this match.
Place a piece of your pumpkinized bread into a baking dish and slather on a nice, thick layer of those heavenly baked apples you made earlier. Don’t be afraid to be generous. There’s no such thing as too much love. When you’re done, pile on another piece of toast on top and give it a little pat to sort of marry everything together. Then pop it into your oven so the honeymoon can begin!
Take a moment. It’s okay. I understand.
It should take about twenty-five minutes in the oven to get just picture perfect but keep an eye on it. Every oven is different and it would be a crying shame to miss out on this stuff right here.
Spoon a little Greek yogurt on top, sprinkle it with walnuts, drizzle it with honey or maple syrup if that’s your thang (I think it’s sweet enough without) and then pour yourself a big ol’ mug of coffee and dive right in.
Say it with me now: Mmmm.
Autumn Fields French Toast
For the filling:
Two or three apples, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon zest
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400F.
Slice your apples and in an oven-proof baking dish, toss them in lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Dot with butter.
Bake for forty minutes, or until soft and caramelized.
For the toast:
Four pieces hearty bread
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk as needed
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, milk, vanilla, maple syrup, and all spices until well blended.
Soak bread in batter.
In a large, buttered frying pan on medium heat, brown each side of bread slices – about two minutes per side.
Place two pieces of browned bread in a baking pan. Spoon on apple compote, and top with remaining bread slices.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Top with yogurt and walnuts.