in my kitchen | stuffed cinnamon-raisin challah


we're big brunch people. i'm more of a savory-bacon-omelet-sandwich-kind-of girl and joe tends to favor chocolate chip pancakes, french toast and the occasional bagel with cream cheese. when we lived in charlotte, our favorite brunch spot, TOAST, had this amazing stuffed french toast that joe still raves on and on about. since he hasn't once complained once about all of the eggs, sausage, and home fries that he's been forced to suffer through, i figured that i would indulge him this weekend with something that his taste buds would thank me for.

and hot damn, i'm glad i did...

(serves four, two pieces each)

the what:
for the toast and batter:
1 loaf cinnamon-raisin challah
4 eggs, preferably organic and cage-free
2/3 cup whole milk (or heavy cream if you're feeling dangerous)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp real unsalted butter 
(not margarine; that shit will kill you.)

for the filling:
8 oz room temperature cream cheese (not fat-free)
1/2 pint raspberries (3 oz)
5 large strawberries 
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tbsp agave or pure maple syrup
zest of one orange or lemon (whatever you have on hand will work)

pure maple syrup, warmed
sliced strawberries
sliced banana (this was marlo's addition)
maybe even a dusting of powdered sugar if that's you're thing

the how:
slice the challah into 1.5 inch thick slices. 
combine the ingredients for the batter into a shallow bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. 
in a separate bowl, mash the raspberries until they resemble a jam. add the softened cream cheese, vanilla, syrup, and zest and mix together. slice the strawberries and add to the cream cheese mixture until incorporated. try not to break up the strawberries; you want them to remain firm. 

using a pairing knife, make little pockets into the challah, being sure not to cut completely through the bread. using a spoon, stuff the challah with the cream cheese mixture. make sure that they aren't stuffed too full so that the cream cheese doesn't ooze (technical term) out during the cooking process.

| preheat your cast-iron skillet or griddle on medium to medium-low depending on your range |

place the stuffed into the egg batter and coat all sides well. they can even sit in the batter for a minute to soak up the batter while the skillet finishes pre-heating. add the butter into the skillet or griddle and add the toast. cook on one side until golden brown and then flip and do the same for the other side. 

serve immediately with syrup, assorted fruit toppings, and powdered sugar. 

a few tips: 
if you have a cast-iron skillet, use it. it does something insanely magical to the egg and bread that a griddle just cannot duplicate. and technically, you could use any kind of thick bread but i'm quite partial to challah for any variation of french toast. i really stress the challah. and these days, you can find it in almost every super market that has a decent bakery. and, lastly, for the cream cheese mixture, if you're feeling particularly bold, you could add some orange or raspberry liquor and it would be absolutely amazing. 



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