Cinnamon Toast Flan - A Bread Pudding

This is my first ever Julia Child recipe. I somehow, through all my baking, put on the back burner of my mind the countless Julia Child cooking programs my mom would make me sit through as a child. I guess I just never associated her with baking but more with flying chickens of the non-vegetarian sort.

Fortunately for me my mother happened to have Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom book sitting in her bathroom one day. Being that I was in no quick position to go anywhere I decided to take a look and quickly flipped to the back pages where the desserts usually hide. The first page that I turned to had this recipe for cinnamon toast bread pudding on it. It was like the hands of fate guided me to this book! I never knew how many different things I could learn from Julia Child about dessert.

I got to thinking while I was making this...I wonder if Julia Child had a dishwasher (as in a person who washes dishes)...just in her everyday life when she was learning and testing recipes...with everything she knew and everything she learned...did she whisk up five consecutive batches of creme anglaise (a French custard base) in one day just to get it so-so (after all she was the "master") and then wash her own dishes? All pressing questions in the minds of many I'm sure. But really, I would like to gain even a smidgen of her knowledge. I'm dedicated to opening up a book of hers and learning the basics in the near future. Maybe I'll hire a dishwasher...

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, another pressing question...what the heck did they do in the days before electric stand mixers???? I mean, for serious!!! This recipe requires the beating of sugar with 5 large eggs and 5 egg yolks into "the ribbon" stage. Do you even understand the magnitude of what that means to someone with no mixer???? It took me at least 15 minutes in my super-duper-powered modern whizzy machine (otherwise known as a Kitchen Aid) to beat these 10 eggs and sugar into a gigantic foamy mass of ribbony pale pillowiness. It made me feel a new sense of respect for my predecessors just knowing that they had steel balls and massive muscles (even if no one knew it).

Eggs tripled in size...

Forming "the ribbon"...

Large volume, large foamy layer...

Creme anglaise all cooked down and ready to go...

In the end this huge pillowy mass of eggs and sugar gets mixed ever so slowly with dribbles of hot milk and cooked over low heat until thick. It must be stirred constantly and kept in check to avoid reaching a bubble which will break the yolk. Eventually a magical thing will happen: the piles of foamy cloud-like egg will give way to a much reduced looking custard that ever so slightly coats the back of a spoon. Mix with vanilla extract and pour over (did I mention???) CINNAMON TOAST, bake, and voila!: Cinnamon toast bread pudding.

Cinnamon Toast Flan - A Bread Pudding

*This recipe is for a 6-cup baking dish 2 inches deep (8" by 8" pan), serving 6 to 8

4 tbs salted butter, at room temp
6 thick slices white sandwich bread, crusts left on
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 large eggs at room temp
5 egg yolks at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
3 3/4 cup hot milk
1 1/2 tbs pure vanilla extract

Preheat the broiler. Butter the bread slices on one side, using half the butter. Arrange them buttered side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over each. Watching carefully, broil for a few seconds until the sugar bubbles up. Cut each slice into 4 triangles. Smear the remaining butter inside the baking dish, and fill with the toast triangles, sugar side up. Set aside while you make the custard sauce (creme anglaise).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the eggs and egg yolks together, adding the sugar by spoonfuls, until the mixture turns a pale yellow and forms the ribbon: start off on a low speed and gradually increase as the eggs start to expand and eventually triple in size. This will take a while and you will know it is done when the whisk, when lifted from the mixture, leaves a slowly dissolving ribbon of egg flowing from it.

Transfer the mixture to a stainless-steel saucepan. Stir in the hot milk by dribbles at first, until all of it is incorporated and the eggs are tempered (the mixture should be smooth). Set over low heat, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon, reaching all over the bottom of the pan as the custard gradually heats and thickens - do not let it come near the boil. If it seems to be getting too hot, lift pan up, then continue as the sauce thickens. You are almost there when surface bubbles begin to disappear and you may see a whiff of steam arise. It is done when surface bubbles are gone and it coats the spoon in a light, creamy layer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix in the vanilla to the custard and pour half through a sieve over the toast. Let soak 5 minutes, then seive on the remaining custard. Place the dish in a roasting pan and set in the lower-middle of the oven. Pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, keeping the water bath at just below the simmer. It is done when a skewer plunged into the custard an inch from the side comes out clean.

It may be eaten hot or allowed to cool. Note that the custard will by runny if served hot and if served cold the custard will set to a thicker consistency.

Recipe from Julia's Kitchen Wisdom

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