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Traverse City Cherry French Toast

white bread, unsliced (1 lb loaf)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 -2 tablespoon sugar
14 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 12 cups pitted tart cherries, mashed lightly (fresh, frozen, canned)
34 cup whole milk
12 cup whipping cream or 12 cup half-and-half
3 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
salt, a pinch
unsalted butter, for pan frying
vegetable oil, for pan frying
powdered sugar
real maple syrup, warmed


Preheat oven to 325. Butter a baking sheet. Cut the bread into 8 equal slices, about 1 inch thick. Prepare filling--mash together in a medium bowl the cream cheese with the sugar and almond extract. Stir in the cherries and add more sugar if the flavor is overtly tart. The mixture should be thick and chunky. In a shallow dish or bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. With a serrated knife, cut a pocket into the side of each piece of bread, carefully slicing into but not all the way through the bread. Spoon equal portions of the filling into each slice. Dunk the stuffed bread slices into the egg mixture and soak them several minutes, turning if needed to coat evenly, until saturated but short of falling apart. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon oil together on a griddle or in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the French toast in batches briefly until golden brown and lightly crisp, turning once. Place the first slices on the baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Continue cooking the remaining slices, adding more butter and oil as needed. When all of the French toast is ready, dust with powdered sugar, sprinkling it through a fine sieve. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Source: www.food.com