Have you ever heard of anyone putting bread on hold?

Neither had I, until I did it this weekend. I know I’ve told you that I have some quirks that pertain to food; apparently, putting bread on hold is also one of those quirks….

Let me explain.

Like many other stores, our grocery store has a rewards program going for a variety of their specialty items. You know, buy 10 salad bars get the 11th free or buy 12 pies and get the 13th free. I think these programs are awesome, Kevin, on the other hand, thinks they’re just a ploy to get me to spend more money and purchase things that I don’t need. This may be true, but to be honest, I don’t care. I’ll gladly buy 12 pies to get that one for free. It’s such a good feeling I get that I almost feel as if I’ve won something really cool, is that sad?

My latest free item was a gourmet bread of my choosing from our amazing local bakery that sells their goodies through our grocery store. I was on the prowl for some eggy challah bread (more on that later) to make a french toast recipe I’d been dreaming up in my head, so I set out to snatch it up on my next grocery trip.

That was a month and a half ago. Unfortunately, every single time I went to the store, they had every other kind of bread except for challah. There was ciabatta, french baguettes, asiago, sourdough, whole grain, pretzel bread. You name it; they had it, except when it came to challah of course.

My dreams of a brandy and apple laced french toast had all but disappeared, until last Friday, while at a competing grocery store, I spotted what looked to be like a loaf of the exact challah I’d been searching for. Before I went ahead and snatched it up, I thought I’d check with the other store just to be sure they didn’t also have it.

Of course, they had it. Figures that the one time I didn’t go to my usual store they’d have it stock. So, since I had a perfectly fine FREE loaf, just calling my name at another store, I couldn’t bear to buy the bread I had in my hands. I had them go ahead and hold the one lonely loaf they had left (yep, put it on hold) and scurried over to claim my free challah.

Was all that trouble for the perfect french toast worth the $5 of free bread I got? Absolutely.

Now that we’ve gone over a somewhat wordy synopsis of one of my idiosyncrasies, let’s talk french toast.

Hands down my favorite bread to use for french toast is challah – a dense egg bread similar to brioche, but just a touch lighter. It’s perfect for french toast, because it soaks up the egg and milk mixture beautifully and has the ability to be super crispy on the outside while maintaining that chewy custardy texture on the inside.

The bread is sliced into one inch pieces and then soaked in an egg, milk, and brandy mixture until the bread is completely saturated. It’s then browned off in a hot sauté pan with a little bit of butter and finished off in the oven. I top it off with homemade apple compote that’s laced with brandy, cinnamon, and cardamom – a perfect complement to the brandied custard.

We had this for Sunday brunch, but this dish is so delicious and decadent that it could easily be served for dessert as well.

Saute apples in a little butter over a medium high heat until they start to break down.

Booze the apples up with a little bit of brandy

I like to use a combination of brown and white sugar because the brown sugar has a tendency to caramelize just a little bit better than the white sugar. A little bit of water, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt are also added at this point. Sauté another eight or so minutes until the apples are cooked through and caramelized.


While the apples are cooking, make the custard.  Mix milk, eggs, brandy, and a little bit of salt in a large shallow dish.

Slice challah into 1 inch slices.When soaking the bread, be sure that the entire piece of bread is soaked in the custard mixture, otherwise the middle will just be plain old bread.

Using two large sauté pans melt 1 tablespoon butter (in each pan) over a medium heat. Add soaked bread slices, making sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook for two to three minutes until the first side is golden brown, flip over and cook for 30 seconds.  Transfer the pans to the preheated oven and cook another 5-7 minutes.

FYI. The reason that I cook it partially over the stove and finish it off in the oven is because the bread is so thick and dense that the middle will not cook all the way through while the bread browns.  Top with finished apple compote and maple syrup. Breakfast is served!

Brandy Soaked French Toast with Apple Compote
Note. This serves 4-6 people since a half loaf yields four to six pieces of bread. It depends on how big of eaters you’ve got in your family. We were just fine with one piece per person – these are BIG portions. If you think that won’t be enough for 4-6 people or have more than 4-6 people, double the recipe.
Recipe type: Nicole-Cooking for Keeps
Serves: 4
  • ½ loaf challah bread
  • 5 cups diced granny smith apples (about large apples)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of cardamom
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. For the compote: Sauté apples in butter over a medium high heat until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Add brandy and cook until almost evaporated about two minutes. Add sugars, water, and spices. Cook the mixture until the apples are cooked through and start to break down, another 8 minutes. The mixture should be soft, but still have a little toothsome bite to some of the apple pieces. Keep warm over a low heat.
  2. For the french toast: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice Challah into one inch slices. Whisk milk, eggs, brandy, and salt together in a large shallow dish until combined. Place bread into the custard mixture. Soak the first side for two minutes. Turn over and let the other side soak for two minutes. Heat a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter to the pan, swirling to coat the entire pan. Cook bread until the first side is golden brown, about two to three minutes. Flip over and cook another 30 seconds. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for five minutes.
  3. Serve toast with apple compote and maple syrup.

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