Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cherries and Cream Stuffed French Toast

The thought of cherries invokes all sorts of memories. One of the most memorable is when my five year old brother announced he would rather have my mother’s home baked cherry pie served at his birthday parties than birthday cake! Then there were the beautiful juice glasses we drank from when we were visiting our grandparents, each glass decorated with a pair of stemmed cherries that were hand painted by my grandmother. The glasses’ cherry design matched my grandparents cherry patterned china. More than a dozen times a day, I pass “Cherry Earrings” a fetching etching that hangs just outside the entrance of our kitchen; amusing reminders of my passion for cherries!

The local cherry season runs from mid-June and ends in early July, although cherry pickers tell me cherries are, “weather dependant,” so the season varies. There are two categories of cherries, sweet and sour (also known as tart or pie cherries). Popular are the purplish-red, heart-shaped sweet cherries, most commonly known as Bing. Another popular sweet variety is Rainier, (pronounced “rah – neer”) a yellow cherry with pinkish “cheeks.” The Sour cherry (mainly used for preserves and pies) is bright red in color and slightly smaller than the sweet version.

A bowl of cherries was the result of this recipe. It would be ideal to serve this delicious dish if you're entertaining another couple for breakfast or brunch. Not only is it impressive, I especially like that it must be prepared in advance. More time to spend with your guests! Pork sausage, vegetarian sausage or bacon are wonderful accompaniments. 

Mr. Fabulous and I like to lay the French toast in a pool of maple syrup, as shown in my picture, but that's a matter of preference.

Helpful to know: Plan ahead. This needs to be prepared the day before serving. You can find Tuscan bread in the specialty breads section of most food stores nationwide. 

Cherries and Cream

4-ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup dark cherries, (Bing or Rainier) pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Eight ½-inch slices Tuscan bread

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese with cherries. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over four slices of bread; top each slice with second slice of bread.

Egg Mixture

4 eggs, room temperature
½ cup half & half

Whisk eggs with half & half in a baking dish that will accommodate 4 sandwiches in a single layer. Place sandwiches in egg mixture and allow to soak for five minutes on each side. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day …

1-2 tablespoons canola oil, for cooking

Butter and syrup
Sliced almonds
Confectioners sugar for dusting French toast

In preparation for cooking, allow sandwiches to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes.) Heat canola oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat, cook sandwiches (in batches of 2 or in two skillets) until golden brown on each side. Serve immediately with butter and syrup. Top with sliced almonds and dust with confectioners sugar. Yield: 4 servings.