"I dislike soggy French toast where it's all the same consistency," says John Stavropoulos of West Juliett in Marrickville. "Buttering one side of the toast and popping it in the pan makes it really crunchy, while the other egg-dipped side has the traditional moist, French-toast texture. I like that contrast," says the chef.
The dish developed out of experiences with leftover caramelly miche bread during the cafe's opening week. With thick dollops of salted caramel, fresh, subtly sweet ricotta straight from the cheese basket and seasonal fruit on top, the dish has earned cult status with regulars. "It's about getting the pan temperature just right so that the bread and butter doesn't burn, but still crisps. Don't be shy with the butter, and butter the bread rather than the pan." The salted caramel was Stavropoulos's answer to imported Canadian maple syrup, made with fresh cream in-house and whisked to give it a billowy texture. It is used in the cafe's caramel milkshakes too.
400ml pouring cream
8 slices of miche loaf (malted wholemeal loaf), cut 2.5cm thick
400g fresh ricotta, cut into 4 even wedges
250g strawberries, hulled and sliced
icing sugar, to dust
400g caster sugar
400ml pouring cream
1 generous pinching of salt flakes
For the salted caramel, add the sugar and 50ml of water to a large saucepan over low heat. Swirl the pan occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heap up and cook until a dark amber caramel. Remove the pan form the heat and slowly add the cream while whisking - be very careful, as the mixture will bubble up. Add the salt and whisk until smooth. Pour into a container and refrigerate.
Once the caramel has completely cooled, whisk using an electric mixer until light and airy. This can be made up to 5 days in advance.
For the French toast, beat the eggs until combined. Add the cream and beat until just incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into a shallow dish.
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Generously butter one side of each slice of bread. Working in batches, lay the un-buttered side in the egg mix for about 30 seconds - ensure that the bread is dipped only halfway so that the other side cooks egg-free and becomes crunchy. Place each piece of bread, buttered-side down, in the pan and cook until deep golden, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Repeat until all the slices are cooked.
To serve, cut each piece of toast in half and stack four halves in each shallow bowl. Place the ricotta next to the toast and spoon over some caramel. Scatter over the strawberries, dust with icing sugar and serve.
Update July 13, 2017: Since this article was published, the cafe has changed ownership. This dish no longer appears on the cafe's menu; even more reason to make it at home.
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