Nothing screams springtime quite like a bright, celebratory brunch punctuated with lemon, and this stuffed French toast is just that. Fluffy, custard-like slices of brioche or challah get filled with creamy ricotta cheese flavored with fresh lemon juice and zest, and then get toasted in butter until golden-brown. It’s the classic French toast you know and love, only amped up with a decadent center that makes it fit for a celebration.
How do you stuff French toast?
Stuffing French toast is a lot easier than it sounds. You’ll start by slicing your bread a bit thicker than you normally would for typical French toast. (Slices that are about two inches thick are ideal.) You’ll then create a horizontal slit across the bottom of each slice of bread, making sure you don’t accidentally slice the bread all the way through to the other side. Then just press down in the centers of each toast to compress the bread slightly and create pockets, and fill them with whatever filling your heart desires (in this case, a lightly sweetened ricotta mixture punched up with fresh lemon zest and juice). It’s that easy!
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Tips for making the best stuffed French toast
Before you head into the kitchen to make this recipe, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t overstuff your bread. Fill the bread until it is almost completely full (and definitely not overflowing). The cheese will expand slightly as you cook the toast, so you don’t want to overfill the bread and have it ooze out during cooking.
- Feel free to customize the filling. This recipe is super flexible and can be riffed on in countless ways, so feel free to tweak the filling. You can add mini chocolate chips, chopped fruit, or any spice you want.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan when cooking the French toast. For perfectly golden French toast, you only want to cook two to three at a time. There should be at least one inch of space between each piece of bread to ensure they have enough room to cook properly.
Lemon Ricotta Stuffed French Toast
Serves 4 to 6
1 (about 1-pound) loaf unsliced brioche or challah bread
1 large lemon
1 (15- to 16-ounce) container ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
6 large eggs
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
For serving: fresh berries, maple syrup, and finely grated lemon zest
1. Trim the ends off an unsliced loaf brioche or challah bread. Cut crosswise into 2-inch thick slices (4 to 6 slices total). Cut a pocket into each slice: Arrange it cut-side down on the cutting board. Position a small knife parallel to the cutting board and use it to cut a pocket into the side, being careful not to cut all the way through. Insert your fingers into the pocket and gently press around with your fingers to compress the bread slightly.
2. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon into a medium bowl (about 2 teaspoons); juice the lemon into the bowl until you have 2 tablespoons. Add 1 (15 to 16-ounce) container ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir until the sugar is almost completely dissolved.
3. Transfer into a piping bag or large plastic zip-top bag. Cut off one bottom corner of the zip-top or the tip of the piping bag and generously pipe the filling into the pocket of each bread slice. The filling should completely fill the pocket but not overflow, and you may have leftover filling.
4. Place 1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk, 6 large eggs, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and whisk until smooth and no streaks of unincorporated egg are visible. Fit a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.
5. Place as many bread slices as can fit in a single layer into the milk mixture. Soak, flipping once, until the bread is saturated but not soggy, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the bread slices to the wire rack; repeat soaking the remaining slices.
6. Melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add as many bread slices as can fit in a single layer with space around each one. Cook until golden-brown and the custard in the bread is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side (reduce the heat as needed to cook the toast for the full amount of time). Transfer to serving plates and tent with aluminum foil if not serving right away or keep warm in a 250 F oven.
7. Cook the remaining bread slices, melting 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in the pan before each batch. Serve with maple syrup, berries and more lemon zest if desired.
- Make ahead: The ricotta filling can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.
- Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
(Jesse Szewczyk is a contributor to TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)