Baked French Toast with Candied Bacon
When it comes deciding what to do with leftover bread, there are almost too many choices. Good bread just gets better after a day or two. Its characteristics become more pronounced: it’s tangier on the tongue, and chewier, too. The more moisture it loses, the stronger the flavour. At this stage, when it’s a little dry, bread is perfect for making French toast. Enriched breads like cholla or brioche are clear winners when it comes to making French toast, but any kind of quality white bread will do.
|For the bacon:|
|16 rashers||rindless unsmoked streaky bacon|
|2 tbsp||clear honey|
|20g||pecans, toasted and very finely chopped|
|For the French toast:|
|½ tsp||ground cinnamon|
|½ tsp||fine sea salt|
|8 slices (2-3cm thick)||stale cholla, brioche or other white bread|
|50g||butter, for frying|
|maple syrup, clear honey, or house syrup, for drizzling|
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. To make the candied bacon, spread out the rashers on a wire rack on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and sprinkle them with the muscovado sugar.
Bake for 5–8 minutes, until the sugar has caramelised.
While the bacon is cooking, heat the honey with the cayenne in a small pan, warming it through for a minute until runny. Remove the bacon from the oven and use a pastry brush to lacquer the upper side of the rashers with the honey and cayenne. Return to the oven for 2–3 minutes more.
Take them out, turn them over, brush the second sides with honey and cayenne and sprinkle over the finely chopped pecans so that they stick to the honey. Put the bacon back in the oven a final time, and bake until candied and glass-like, another 2–3 minutes – it should take on the shade and the sheen of a glossy conker. Set aside to cool.
To make the French toast, leave the oven on at the same temperature.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Dunk the slices of bread into the liquid and soak until almost falling apart. In a large frying pan, melt a large knob of butter over a medium heat and use it to fry the bread in batches, adding more butter as you go if the pan looks in danger of getting dry. Each side will need 2–3 minutes to turn nicely golden. Flip the bread only once during the cooking process.
When you have fried all the bread, place the slices in a single layer in a large baking tin and bake in the oven for 5–8 minutes, until each slice is a rich golden shade – the edges in particularly should be a dark brown, and the toast should puff up, soufflé-style.
Serve right away: arrange the French toast on plates, top with the candied bacon and drizzle over the maple syrup, honey or house syrup.