Although it looks super fancy, this Caramelized French Toast with sweetened orange custard is easier than you think! This is set to be everyone’s favorite breakfast or brunch dish!
Why I love French Toast
In my recipes for Cinnamon-Cardamom French Toast and Orange Marmalade French Toast, I told you about my Sunday French Toast memories with my Dad. But that little girl is all grown up and occasionally likes to pretend she's fancy. So, French Toast, sprinkled with Peppered Cinnamon Sugar, soaked in and served with Orange Crème Anglaise. La di da.
I normally don't go for an overly soaked French Toast. Their custardy insides can be a little too much like just wet bread for me. But when that soaking liquid is a sweet, citrusy crème anglaise, that's a breakfast that will make me say "Oui!"
At the end of the day, this recipe is just bringing that little girl eating her Daddy's Sunday Wonder Bread French Toast together with the wishful fancy girl using an Orange Crème Anglaise soaked baguette. Bon Appétit!
For a twist on traditional French Toast, try my French toast baked on a sheet pan. Easy, no fuss, and less mess!
What is Créme Anglaise?
Also known as English creme, or a pouring custard, crème anglaise is a mixture of sugar, milk, and egg yolks, normally flavored with vanilla, cooked gently, until thickened. It is also the most common base for ice cream! And if you watch enough food television and have heard of pastry cream, think of this as its less thick cousin. Its sweet, flavorful, and pourable cousin.
Ingredients in the Caramelized French Toast
- Stale baguette I like to buy a good baguette, in a paper bag, and place it in my bread box for 3-4 days. It's still a bit squishable, but noticeably harder. You could also just leave your bread on the counter overnight.
- Peppered cinnamon sugar This is just a blend of sugar, cinnamon, and a touch of black pepper. The pepper doesn't add any heat, but there are fruity notes to pepper that really play well with the orange in the crème anglaise.
Ingredients in the Orange Créme Anglaise
- Whole milk I use whole milk in this recipe, but you can use low fat. I have read about using nut milks in making crème anglaise, but I've never tried it. If you do, let me know how it goes in the comments!
- Heavy cream Since the thickening of the sauce really comes from lightly cooking the egg yolks, you can skip the heavy cream and use more milk, but I came here for fancy French Toast and I'm using heavy cream. You feel free to express your own preferences.
- Vanilla bean paste Crème Anglaise is traditionally flavored with vanilla and I prefer to use vanilla bean paste, which is a blend of actual vanilla bean pods and vanilla extract. I love the little speckles of vanilla beans in my crème anglaise, but you can substitute with regular vanilla extract and get the same overall flavor.
- Orange zest I wanted to elevate the flavor of my crème anglaise with strips of orange zest. I used a vegetable peeler to remove 4 strips of the outside rind, each about 2-3 inches long, making sure not to get any of the pith (the white part under the orange outer layer, which is really bitter 😖)
- Sugar For sweetening, obviously 😉
- Egg yolks I use 6 large egg yolks for thickening my crème anglaise, but if you have extra large, that's fine. If you have medium eggs, add an extra yolk. If you have small eggs, add 2 more yolks and buy bigger eggs next time. You deserve them ❤️ See my note, below.
How do I make this French Toast
- Steep milk Start by combining milk, cream, vanilla, orange zest, most of the sugar (see recipe card below), and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring this mixture to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes.
- Make Crème Anglaise base While the milk mixture is steeping, whisk your egg yolks with the reserved sugar until the color of the eggs lightens and the mixture thickens. Remove the orange zest and slowly whisk about a third of the warm milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking the whole time.
- Soak bread Slice your stale baguette into 1 to 1 ½ inch slices and place in a large baking or casserole dish. Pour the crème anglaise base over the top and carefully flip over the slices to soak both sides. Remove the bread to a wire rack placed over a large sheet pan, to drain a bit.
- Strain Using a wire mesh strainer to remove and bread bits, pour any remaining custard back into the small saucepan, including any crème anglaise that may have drained into the sheet pan. Rinse out the strainer.
- Spice it up Sprinkle the tops of the soaked baguettes with peppered cinnamon sugar.
- Cooking Crème Anglaise Cook the crème anglaise, over low heat, whisking constantly, about 5-7 minutes. The custard will thicken, You'll know it is done if you dip a spoon into the sauce and when drag your finger through the sauce on the spoon, it leaves a visible path. Strain again, using the cleaned wire mesh strainer, into a small bowl that has been set in an ice bath. Stir to cool, then cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the crème anglaise. Let chill. You should have ½-3/4 cup of crème anglaise.
- Cook french toast Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a wire rack into a large sheet pan. Cook french toast in a skillet with melted butter until golden brown and caramelized. Sprinkle the other side with the peppered cinnamon sugar, flip, and cook until done the same way. Place on sheet pan and place in the oven to finish cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Serve Schmear a bit of the orange crème anglaise on the plate. Place 2 or 3 pieces of toast on the plate, drizzle with more crème anglaise if you like, and garnish with fresh fruit. Enjoy!
One of the main reasons that home cooks are afraid to try to make crème anglaise is that they're afraid they'll do something wrong and not be able to save it. Fear no more! If you accidently curdle your crème anglaise, don't panic! Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender if you have one, and blend to smooth everything out. Then just strain through your wire mesh strainer to remove any stray cooked egg bits. You're good to go and no one will ever know anything happened!
Feeling Festive? Try my Easy Eggnog French Toast, for a bit of Ho-Ho-Ho all year round! Drenched in a run flavored eggnog custard, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, it a breakfast gift to yourself!
Storage and reheating
Well, you could, but because of the soft custardy insides, and the crisp, caramelized outside, these are most delicious when eaten immediately. But, if you must, wrap each individual slice in plastic wrap and save for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, wrap in aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, or until warm.
More Tasty French Toast Recipes
Caramelized French Toast
Orange Crème Anglaise
- 1 ½ cups (360 g) whole milk
- 1 cup (240 g) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 4 large strips orange zest
- Pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar divided
- 6 (108 g) egg yolks
Peppered cinnamon sugar
- ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon finely ground black pepper optional
- Slender baguette cut into 12 one inch slices
- 3 tbs (42 g) butter
Preparing Orange Crème Anglaise
- Put aside 2 tablespoons of sugar for the egg yolks. Combine milk, cream, vanilla, orange zest, pinch of salt, and remaining sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes.
- Whisk egg yolks and reserved sugar in medium bowl until sugar is dissolved and the color of the eggs lightens. Using a wire mesh strainer, gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Start with ⅓ of the milks to temper, then gradually add the rest, whisking the whole time.
Soaking the baguette
- Pour the custard over the bread slices and allow to soak for about 3 minutes. Flip the bread over and let soak another 3 minutes. Carefully place soaked slices on a wire rack set over a large sheet pan and sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.
Cooking Orange Crème Anglaise
- Return any remaining custard to small saucepan (even the custard that drained from the soaked bread), using the wire mesh strainer to catch any bread bits. Clean the wire mesh strainer.
- Whisk constantly over low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5-7 minutes (do not boil). Use the wire mesh strainer to strain sauce into bowl that is set over a bowl of ice water. Stir to cool then cover with plastic wrap directly on custard surface and chill.
Making French Toast
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Set a wire rack into a large sheet pan and set aside.
- In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, or other large pan, melt one tablespoon butter. Place 4 pieces of bread, cinnamon sugar side down, in skillet. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on the other sides of the bread. Cook, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown and caramelized. Place finished toast on sheet pan and cook the remaining pieces.
- Transfer finished toasted bread to the oven to finish cooking for about five minutes.
- Serve with more cinnamon sugar and remaining Crème Anglaise. Garnish with fresh fruit, if desired.
The nutritional and caloric information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It does not assert or suggest that readers should or should not count calories, and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s or doctor’s counseling.