This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Colgate-Palmolive. All opinions are mine alone. #FusionClean #CollectiveBias
Do most of your mornings feel a bit like a mad rush, especially on the weekdays? Wouldn’t it be nice to make a special occasion out of one of those rare relaxing mornings?
Of course, you don’t want to turn a calm morning into chaos by attempting some complicated and drawn out breakfast plan.
I have the perfect solution: a french toast bar, a “gourmet” brunch without all the fuss.
It might sound a little fancy, especially if you have a love / hate relationship with the kitchen. But hang in there with me. I’m definitely not one for fussy or fancy. I promise you can do this!
Make an Easy “Gourmet” French Toast Bar
While visiting my parents a couple weeks ago with my boys, we decided to make a french toast bar to spice up the regular old morning breakfast. Although we ended up with some fancy sounding plates like homemade apple cinnamon syrup and made-from-scratch orange pomegranate glaze with powdered sugar decorating our challah french toast, it was so easy that the boys helped in almost every step of the process.
If you’re a kitchen guru, you can probably do this in your sleep. But if you’re a little intimated by or new to the “fancy food” kitchen scene, let me walk you through the steps to ensure you that your culinary skills are up to ‘Gourmet French Toast’ snuff.
First, prepare all of your ingredients. Gather whatever you will need for all the toppings, the drinks, and the serving dishes. Clean and chop any fruit. Set aside all the ingredients (powdered sugar, pomegranates, cubed apples, brown sugar, etc..) from you cabinets and fridge that will be used in any homemade syrups or sauces. Measure out ingredients, where it makes sense.
The French use the term ‘mise en place’ which basically means ‘putting in place.’ Professional chefs use this practice regularly, and it works really well for everyday home chefs like us too.
Fresh fruits adds color, lots of flavor and look and taste lovely. Be sure to include some of these in your collection of toppings.
For the bread, we used challah, a sweet, braided Jewish bread. In my opinion, challah is by far the best bread for french toast. They don’t sell it all grocery stores, so be sure to call ahead to your store’s bakery if you haven’t seen it on the shelves before. Cut the challah in thick slices (about a 1.5″ or so) to mimic the fancy, gourmet french toast at your favorite brunch spot or local diner.
We chose the following toppings for our french toast bar. If you’d like some more ideas, scan the menus of your favorite brunch spots to borrow some of their ideas for unique and seasonal topping combinations.
Our French Toast Bar Topping Menu
- Powdered sugar ~ This always makes it prettier, and it’s super easy
- Fresh fruit ~ Sliced strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Peanut butter and bananas ~ A classic combination
- Strawberries and chocolate ~ We melted chocolate chips in the microwave, the same way I did for this Valentine’s Day sweet snack with my boys.
- Orange and pomegranate glaze ~ I topped our orange pound cake with the same glaze, so you can find the recipe there.
- Apple cinnamon glaze ~ I tried this for the first time and loved it. Head to the bottom of this post for recipe details.
You could also add whipped cream (store-bought or homemade). But I’m not a fan of whipped cream, so we passed on it.
Turn Up the Heat
Ingredients prepped, it’s time to start making the few homemade components of the spread. If you want to follow our toppings menu, prepare the apple cinnamon syrup first. While that simmers, mix and simmer the orange pomegranate glaze as well. These two component take the longest (though only about 10 – 15 minutes) and can cool while cooking the french toast.
Next, whip up the french toast soak (recipe below) and cook the french toast. If you have a large crowd, you can keep the cooked pieces in the oven at about 250 degrees to stay warm until everything is cooked and ready to serve.
We use real maple syrup in a cup or mug with a spout and heat it up in the microwave for 15 – 20 seconds, which always looks much fancier than store-bought syrup in its original packaging.
Finally, plate the french toast and round up your hungry family and/or friends to each make their own version of brunch bliss. They’ll seriously be impressed with your fancy options, and even the pickiest eaters can create something they love.
That’s what happens when you let your three year old pour his own powdered sugar. But.. to each his own. The best part of a make-your-own french toast bar is customizing to your tastes, right?
Oh… The Clean Up
Maple syrup. Raw eggs. Sticky glaze. Homemade fruit syrups. As easy as it was prepare, I wasn’t excited about the clean up process. Letting the kids get their hands dirty (literally) made for even more of a sticky mess. It doesn’t help that I pretty much hate doing dishes.
Often times, I cook and M does the dishes. I clean so few dishes that M occasionally asks me sarcastically if I know how to clean the dishes. (For the record, I definitely do…)
This time, however, in town visiting my parents and M elsewhere visiting friends, I begrudgingly took on the dish cleaning task myself.
Much to my surprise, it ended up being not that bad. Maybe I need to give dish cleaning more of a fair shake?
Should I Tell My Father-in-Law He Was Right?
About a year ago, my father-in-law was visiting us. Unlike me, he really likes to clean and doesn’t mind a good sink full of dishes. His affinity for cleaning has earned him a pretty solid knowledge base of the best cleaning products.
As he scrubbed away at some dishes one night in our kitchen (thank you!), he commented on the brand of dish soap we had purchased and advised against it saying certain brands are definitely better than others. I didn’t think much of it but did try a few different types of dish soap going forward. Guess what?! It actually does matter. Some work far better than others (shocking, right?).
Should I make it a point to tell my father-in-law he was right that buying better soap really matters? Ha.
While in Walmart picking up some things during our visit to my parents’ house, I opted to try Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ Baking Soda & Lime Dish Liquid. (They also have a Grapefruit option.) I liked that it had baking soda in it. If you’re shopping between 4/10 and 4/23, you can grab a $0.25 off coupon on coupons.com to try it out yourself.
After indulging our little hearts out on french toast and all sorts of sticky, messy toppings, we got after the dishes with the Palmolive® Fusion Clean™.
We’ll Definitely Be Trying This Again
This was my first crack at a full-blown french toast bar. We’ve made french toast many times but never ratcheted our game up a notch to include an array of seemingly gourmet toppings.
I think I impressed even myself. I also loved exploring new options. I had never tried apple-cinnamon syrup. I love peanut butter and banana but always stuck with classic maple syrup on my french toast. With pretty basic kitchen skills, we opened up a whole new possibility of fun breakfast options that even the kids can help create.
Brunch with Girlfriends
You could also use the idea to make a simple yet sophisticated brunch for some girlfriends. Much of it can be prepared in advance, allowing you to spend more time chatting and less time prepping while friends are around.
If you have some friends over, add a fun punch in a pretty bowl with some champagne glasses, cut up a little extra fruit to vary the size of your bowls (and feed some adult appetites), and finish off the spread with a couple vases of flowers from the grocery store. Your friends will be mightily impressed while you know it came together with nothing more than a few basic steps of preparation.
No matter your level of culinary expertise, a french toast bar is not out of your league. If you’re up for the “challenge” (and I’m sure you are), incorporate some of the tips I shared above. I’d love to hear about how it turns out.
Simple French Toast
- 1 loaf challah sliced thick
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp cinnamon
Heat skillet on med / med-high heat
Scramble eggs in a bowl large enough to dip challah slices
Add vanilla, milk and cinnamon
Coat challah slices in egg mixture and cook on skillet until golden brown
Flip and cook second side until golden brown
Apple Cinnamon Syrup
- 1 apple peeled and cubed
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp of cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup of water
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Add apples and allow to simmer for another 5 - 7 minutes or until apples reach desired softness.
Allow to cool slightly and serve.