Waking up to spice-scented French toast? Sign us up.

By Bridget Hallinan
July 20, 2020
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Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners

Whether you’re whipping up pancakes or eggs Benedict, homemade brunch is a fun way to make the weekend special, and this twist on baked French toast deserves a spot in your lineup. Developed by Liz Mervosh, the recipe is “inspired by the Swedish cardamom-infused buns called kardemummabullar,” and features challah bread (or brioche), plenty of butter, a custard flavored with black peppercorns, and of course, cardamom. After assembling the toasted bread and custard, you do have to be patient and let it chill—but as you’ll see, this makes the recipe ideal for prepping the night before and baking the next morning. Then, all that’s left to do is drizzle on some maple syrup and enjoy.

Here are some tips for pulling it off, compiled from Mervosh’s recipe and the Food & Wine Test Kitchen.

Use a Rich, Egg-Based Bread

Challah bread is perfect for this recipe, since it will get nice and custardy without falling apart. Brioche works well, too.

Don’t Forget That Butter

Stirring the softened butter, granulated sugar, and ground cardamom together before spreading it on the bread slices ensures that the spice will be evenly distributed. (Plus, it helps the bread get nice and golden in the oven.)

Toast Before You Soak

Briefly baking the buttered bread before soaking it in the custard helps dry it out, preventing it from getting too soggy while it chills in the refrigerator and absorbs the custard.

Let It Chill…

Allowing the mixture to chill, covered, for at least eight hours in the fridge ensures that the bread will absorb the custard all the way through, rather than being dry on top and then soggy on the bottom. It will also soften up and become infused with flavor.

…and Then Bring It Back to Room Temperature

Once the bread mixture has been chilled and you’re ready to bake, Mervosh instructs you to let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, uncovered, while the oven preheats. If you placed it in the oven while it was still cold, it would drop the oven temperature, and could result in the outside of the toast baking while the inside stays raw.

Grab the Pearl Sugar

Before the final bake, Mervosh says to brush the top of the bread mixture with melted butter and sprinkle on sugar. You’ll want to use Swedish pearl sugar or sanding sugar as opposed to granulated sugar, since it has more of a crunch and texture.

Serve It

French toast and maple syrup are a classic combination, so when you bring the toast to the table, bring a bottle with you, too. You can also serve the dish with fresh berries, as they’ll pair well with the cardamom.

It’s Made for Make Ahead

Since there’s already a built-in step in this recipe for chilling the bread-custard mixture before it bakes (up to 12 hours), you can easily prepare it the night beforehand. The next morning, you’ll wake up knowing you’re only a quick bake and broil away from a dreamy breakfast.