On the twenty-third day of Martin & Sylvia's Audio Advent Calendar, in the story “A Cleaning Party,” Martin and Sylvia enjoy plates of French toast with berry compote for breakfast, and anticipate a big day of setting up, baking, and wrapping presents for their advent spiral walk party.
Then, Daddy announces that — in addition to the fun party preparation Martin and Sylvia had planned — they will need to clean their house to prepare for their guests. At first Sylvia protests, “Cleaning is not very magical.” But then, the duo finds a special story in their advent card that inspires them. By the end of the morning, the house is gleaming and Martin and Sylvia have taken to heart what Daddy said at the beginning of the day: “There are few things as magical as cleaning!”
You can easily make French toast by merely cleaning out your refrigerator. A few slices of stale bread, an egg or two, a splash of milk—voila!—you have French toast.
At the holidays, however, I like to make a more intentional version.
I start by going to our local bakery and picking out a loaf of fancy bread. This time of year I can often find challah or sourdough studded with chocolate and dried cherries, for example. Then — because slightly state bread will soak up the eggs and cream better — I try to let the bread sit on the counter for a day before I use it.
Another thing I like to do is make a quick batch of homemade berry compote. The lovely thing about compote is that it's typically looser than proper jam, and you're not making it for longterm storage. This means you can make it with just a little orange juice instead of cups and cups of white sugar.
Using a combination of whatever fresh or frozen berries you have on hand, the compote below can also be made ahead of time. Tucked into the fridge, a few jewel-toned jars of compote ensure that you can have a fancy breakfast even on days you have to prepare for a party or clean.
French Toast with Berry Compote
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
About 12 slices of bread (day old, if possible)
berry compote (recipe follows)
syrup and powdered sugar (optional, for serving)
In a shallow pie pan, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, nutmeg and cinnamon. Dip the slices of bread in the cream mixture, allowing them to sit for at least 60 seconds to really soak in the creaminess.
Then, place each slice of toast on a griddle over medium heat, and let them cook—flipping them as necessary—until they are golden brown on both sides.
Serve with berry compote (recipe follows), maple syrup, and/or a quick dusting of powdered sugar.
Berry Compote (makes 2 half-pint jars)
5 cups mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries are all good choices) 1/3 cup orange juice 2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped
Wash, stem, and hull your berries, as necessary, then cut them into chunks as small as the smallest type of berry you are using. Toss them in a wide skillet with high sides. Add the orange juice and ginger, then bring the berry compote to a boil.
Reduce the heat slightly to bring the compote back down to a simmer, and stir at least once every few minutes. When your stirring creates a clear wake in the compote, remove it from the heat and spoon into jars. Store in the refrigerator, and use within a few weeks.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.