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Cardamom French Toast with Grilled Peaches and Mascarpone (Green Cardamom Pods)

A member of the ginger family, cardamom lends an intense aroma and warm, spicy sweetness to this French toast, which is garnished with grilled peach slices and rich mascarpone cheese. Be sure to start with whole cardamom pods and remove the seeds, then roughly grind the seeds in a spice grinder.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe peaches, preferably freestone, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 20 green cardamom pods
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 8 thick slices day-old challah, brioche or other egg bread, halved
  • Canola oil for cooking
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Directions:

Preheat a stovetop grill pan over medium heat. Brush the peaches all over with the melted butter. Place the peaches, cut side down, on the grill pan and cook for 3 minutes. Turn the peaches over and cook until almost tender, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Using a paring knife, slit the cardamom pods lengthwise. Remove the seeds and discard the pods. Pour the seeds into a spice grinder and pulse a few times, then process until the seeds are roughly ground, about 1 minute.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, orange zest and ground cardamom. Add half of the bread slices to the egg mixture and turn gently to coat evenly. Let stand until the bread has soaked up some of the egg mixture, about 1 minute.

Preheat a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat. Lightly oil the pan. Remove the bread from the egg mixture, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Arrange 2 bread slices in the pan and cook until golden brown underneath, about 2 minutes. Turn the bread over and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the center of the bread is heated through but still moist, about 10 minutes. Repeat to soak and cook the remaining bread.

Divide the French toast among warmed plates. Slice the peaches and mound on the toast. Dollop each serving with mascarpone cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma.