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Mascarpone-Stuffed French Toast with Blackberries

These sandwiches, filled with a lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese filling, elevate French toast to the centerpiece of a brunch party. Other fresh berries or fruits, such as blackberries, olallieberries, peaches, nectarines or plums, can be added to, or substituted for, the blackberries. If you are expecting a crowd, this recipe can be easily doubled. Serve the French toast with orange blossom maple syrup or regular maple syrup.

Ingredients:

For the orange blossom maple syrup (optional): 

  • 1 cup maple syrup 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. orange flower water 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
  •   
  • 1/4 lb. mascarpone cheese 
  • 1 Tbs. sugar 
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 8 slices firm-textured bread, such as brioche or challah, each 1/2 inch thick, with crusts 
  •   

For the batter: 

  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt 
  •   
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter  
  • 2 cups blackberries 

Directions:

To make the orange blossom maple syrup, in a small saucepan over low heat, warm the maple syrup. Pour into a small bowl or pitcher and stir in the orange flower water and vanilla until well blended. Serve warm. Or, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Warm over low heat before serving.

In a bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Spread 2 Tbs. of the mascarpone mixture on 4 of the bread slices, leaving a 1/4-inch plain border on all sides. Top with the remaining bread slices.

To make the batter, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and salt. Pour the batter into a baking dish.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 tsp. of the butter and continue to heat until it foams but does not brown.

Place each of the sandwiches in the batter and let stand for 5 seconds. Turn the sandwiches over and let stand for 5 seconds more. Using a wide spatula, carefully lift the sandwiches from the batter, letting any excess drip back into the baking dish, and transfer to the hot pan. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tsp. butter to the pan, turn the sandwiches over and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Using a clean, wide spatula, transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board.

Cut each sandwich in half on the diagonal. Divide among individual plates, top with the blackberries and serve immediately with the syrup. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).