Oh. My. Goodness. This is the most deliciously decadent thing ever. I don't even know whether to call it brunch or dessert, or both. Buttery brioche french toast, sweet pastry cream made with vanilla bean, and crunchy brûléed bananas topped with a drizzle of salted caramel. Total epic ridiculousness.
Step one is to make the vanilla pastry cream. Bring cream to a simmer with a vanilla bean and then let steep before adding to a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and flour and cooking until thick and creamy. It needs to cool completely and then chill, which is why we make it first.
The next step is to make the salted caramel sauce, which is a bit tricky if you have never made one before (I hadn't). You have to leave the sugar alone while it melts and colors, and watch carefully for the right moment. Then you add butter and cream. The caramel with pop and splutter like crazy, and ball up on the end of your whisk. You just have to keep whisking over low heat until it all comes together. Then add in your sea salt and let it cool.
While that is cooling, make your French toast using big, thick slices of brioche (a little stale is better).
BLOW TORCH TIME. This is seriously so much fun. Sprinkle banana slices with sugar and brown with a blow torch. Easy. If you don't have a blow torch, I'm pretty sure that you can use a broiler.
This would actually make a great (healthy) dessert on its own, maybe with a bit of cinnamon. Or maybe over some ice cream (not so healthy). Anyway, you can do one side or both.
Time to layer it all together. I spread the pastry cream onto the French toast, then topped with the bananas, and finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Brioche French Toast with Brûléed Bananas, Vanilla Cream, and Salted Caramel
adapted from Citrus and Candy
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2/3 cup cream
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp flour
Salted Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt
4 thick (1-inch) slices of brioche loaf
1/4 cup milk, cream, or half and half
2 tsp granulated sugar (plus extra for bananas)(I used vanilla sugar)
extra flavorings (optional) - I use cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large bananas, peeled and sliced thickly
To make the vanilla cream, halve the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, then add both pod and seeds to a pan with the cream. Bring to simmer, remove from heat and steep for about 10 minutes to infuse before removing the pod (if you’re using extract or paste, just add to cream, bring to simmer then remove from heat).
In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Whisk in the flour until combined. While continuously whisking, add a bit of the hot cream to the eggs then pour the egg mix back into the pot. Place over low heat and stir constantly until custard is thick, rich and creamy. Pour into a bowl then cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed.
To make the caramel sauce, heat a deep heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar in an even layer and leave to melt into a golden caramel (it will take a while, don't touch it). When it’s ready, take it off the heat and add a good splash of the cream (it’ll bubble up furiously, so be careful). When that settles, add the rest of the cream and the butter. Place it back over low heat and stir gently until everything has melted into a luscious sauce. Add the salt, stir to combine, then cool.
For the french toast, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, and any flavorings until frothy. Pour into a cake pan large enough to fit all four slices of bread. Dip each slice of bread, both sides, into the custard until soaked (I like to let each side sit and soak for a few minutes, there should be very little liquid left in the pan at the end). Heat up the butter in a pan then fry each side of the custard soaked brioche slices until golden then set aside.
Sprinkle the banana slices, cut side up, with a little white sugar, then blowtorch until golden and brûléed (feel free to torch the other side too, if you wish).
To assemble, spread vanilla cream thickly on each slice of the brioche then layer the bananas on top. Spoon a little caramel over the top and serve immediately.