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Decadent Custard Orange-Vanilla Brioche French Toast: Christmas Morning

This will be the first time (ever!) that Matt won’t be spending Christmas with his family in Ohio. He’ll be spending it with his family here in San Francisco — that’s me and our soon-to-be-here (though please don’t get here too soon!) baby girl. In the months leading up to the holidays, I’ve been trying to think of ways to make our first Christmas together as a family unit a special one. I know it will be different from years past, but I think it will be great nonetheless. We’re going to watch some of our favorite holiday movies (Home Alone and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer), video Skype with Matt’s family, stay in our pajamas, open presents, and probably bake and eat something super indulgent for breakfast (I haven’t decided on whether to re-make today’s French Toast recipe, these cinnamon rolls, or a twist on one or the other. Maybe both).

We rarely (well, let’s face it: pretty much never) let ourselves take a day to do nothing but enjoy each other’s company. We just shipped the last of the December Pairings Boxes (a process which, you should know, Matt handles almost entirely on his own these days), I’ve been working a lot and also trying to cook up some fun things for you to enjoy for a few weeks while we bond with our baby, and we’ve both been spending a ton of time preparing our house for her arrival, going to a bunch of appointments, classes, and tours. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to making a plan to feel absolutely no guilt about indulging ourselves in free time. I hear I won’t have much very soon.

As excited as I am about the arrival of our little girl, I feel like I’m also going through a bit of a mourning process. I’m turning 30 in May and this self-centered lifestyle I’ve known pretty much all my life isn’t going to last much longer. I know things will be very different as a family of three. The other day, we went on a tour of the hospital where I’ll be meeting our baby for the first time and I felt this overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, and also, a sense of loss for this existence that I know so well, that has defined me for so long. It feels strange to admit that I had these thoughts as I peered through glass windows at newborn babies and was shown the rooms where I’ll be delivering and also recovering from the birth.

In many ways, I’ve been naive throughout this whole process, not thinking too much about what is to come. Now that my baby shower has passed, the nursery is nearly finished, and I own such things as the ‘Snotsucker,’ it’s all starting to feel a lot more real. What brings me back to a place of peace and happiness are the thoughts of just how great change can be, and how much a new phase of life can be better than the last.

I know having a newborn baby won’t be easy. And it won’t get any easier as she grows and develops a personality. But I also know that even though I’ve always feared the next step in life, the unknown, I’ve always been blown away by just how quickly we can adapt to a new environment and appreciate new experiences.

If you’re celebrating Christmas, or just enjoying the time off to be with your family, I hope you take the time to…take the time. Isn’t that the most important thing in this life? This French Toast, adapted from a fantastic new book called Southern Comfort, is probably the richest I’ve ever eaten. Made using homemade buttermilk brioche (the recipe can be found in the book), it’s soaked in a mixture of milk, eggs, whipping cream, real vanilla beans, and orange zest. I’ll call you a hero if you eat two slices.

Pairings Box Update

You may have heard that we’re completely sold out of both the December and the January Pairings Box. We could barely keep up with the holiday demand and we know that many of you would like to subscribe and also continue gifting Pairings Boxes to friends and families for future occasions. Due to our payment system, we can’t take orders at this time, but if you sign up for our mailing list, you’ll be the first to know when we begin accepting new subscribers. You can sign up here. We don’t email very frequently; we mostly use this list as a way of communicating with you about special offers, and updates related to the Pairings Box. In the meantime, check out the TK Market for other Turntable Kitchen goodies.

Decadent Custard Orange-Vanilla Brioche French Toast
adapted from Southern Comfort
*serves 2 – 4

4 1 inch thick slices of brioche (we made our own buttermilk brioche, recipe in Southern Comfort)
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
1/2 an orange, zested
2 large egg yolks
powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean seeds and orange zest in a medium bowl. Whisk to mix.
2. Lay the brioche slices side by side in a large glass baking dish. Cover with the soaking liquid. Soak the bread for ten minutes, flipping midway through. Most, if not all, of the liquid should get absorbed.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place one slice of brioche into the skillet and cook for a minute or two (until the side cooking has begun to brown and crisp). Flip and continue cooking (flipping again, if necessary) until both sides are nicely golden and lightly crisped. Repeat with the rest of the slices, adding more butter to the skillet, as needed. When you break into the French Toast with your fork, expect it to be soft and custardy.
4. To serve, plate the French Toast and dust with powdered sugar.

Musical Pairings: Monster Rally & RUMTUM – Coasting EP + Custard Orange-Vanilla Brioche French Toast

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • this looks/sounds so amazing and decadent! my husband loves french toast.
    Happy, Happy Holidays and cheers to a new, different, exciting year!

  • elalderson

    Love these reflections. Mike and I have been talking recently about what the future holds for us with moving, marriage, and future babies- it’s crazy how major life changes can be a bit unnerving at first but often lead to something unexpected and usually awesome.

    Oh, and this french toast sounds perfect for Christmas morning!

  • sara forte

    All your feelings make complete sense, and I find it so human of you to share them. We are only lightly discussing the baby topic, and are fearful of how life will change. Like you said, change is typically a good thing and so many parts of us learn and grow in that process. You will be such a wonderful mother, what a lucky little girl. Wishing you guys a very wonderful holiday at home. The french toast looks so crazy decadent and perfect for Christmas morning! xo

  • Nicole

    It makes me happy to think of you two taking some time off to eat a beautiful breakfast together! The french toast looks divine. Merry Christmas!

  • tracy

    This looks sooo good!

  • Laura

    So excited for you and the wonderful things to come to Turntable Kitchen in the new year! The unknown can be so daunting, but our strength remains, whether we feel it at any given time or not. You guys = awesome. Hope you enjoy some simpler and relaxing times and have a great holiday 🙂 xo

  • Elissa Oblath-Johnsrud

    yay for babies & french toast!! i’m expecting a new niece/nephew around the same time as you are due so i get extra excited reading about your preparations.
    my mom and i make challah french toast on Christmas morning and eggnog in the afternoon, a good Jewish tradition.

    happy happy holidays, i know mine will be set against your xmas mix!

  • Wow – that looks scrumptious and I may have to make it Christmas Eve morning. Enjoy your time with each other and know this….it will only get better. You are in for a wild, enjoyable, emotional, wonderful ride! Also – as a side note. Down the road you can look forward to kids all grown up and out of the house! I have 3 years left before my last leaves and I know I will miss her like crazy I am looking forward to it. 😉

  • This French toast looks incredible, Kasey. It’s refreshing to hear your honest perspective on the prospect of motherhood. I’m sure I’ll experience the same bag of mixed feelings someday, if I’m so lucky. Your baby girl is lucky to have such sincere parents.

  • sarah kieffer

    I love your honest and mature thoughts; they are so important! There will be such high highs and such low lows, but I am confident you are going to be such a wonderful mother through it all. So much love to you, Kasey! xo

  • Thank you so much, Cindy! Happy holidays to you and cheers to the New Year!

  • Hi Erin, I am sure you’re experiencing a lot of emotions right now as I know you’re about to make some big changes yourself. It’s true that most of these changes usually end up leading to something awesome. Happy holidays to you and to Mike!

  • Thanks for the encouraging words, friend! Silly as this is going to sound, I love this quote from Sex and City: ” Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn’t fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it’s comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.” – I do believe that change ultimately makes us better and happier people. Happy holidays to you and Hugh!

  • Aww, thank you Nicole! I am very much looking forward to a laid back Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and Marc! I hope you guys have a wonderful and relaxing time with your families.

  • Thank you, Laura! So well-said. Happy holidays to you! xo

  • How exciting! A new family member is always so exciting. Before I met Matt, I often spent Christmas with friends’ families…surprisingly I have never eaten Chinese food on Christmas day as many of my fellow Jews have. I prefer your tradition 😉 So glad to hear you’re enjoying the mix!

  • Jennifer, thank you so much for the reassuring words…I have heard that it all flies by so fast (just ask my parents!) I can’t imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment you must feel, knowing you’ve raised capable and independent children who are off on their own. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

  • Thanks, Kathryne! It’s so nice to hear positive feedback about the feelings I’ve been having! It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster and I think sometimes (well, most times) I overthink things, or worry about whether or not the reaction I’m having to something is the ‘right’ reaction. Truth be told, I think it’s best to be honest with yourself about how you feel, what you want, and what you don’t want, and not worry too much about other people’s reactions…I’m still learning! Oh, and I know your time will come…enjoy this life you’re living! I will look back at these times fondly. Happy holidays! xo

  • Thanks, Sarah! I know it will be wonderful and overwhelming and frustrating and incredibly gratifying…all at the same time. Having wonderful people cheer you on certainly helps, I’m sure. Happy holidays to you and yours! xo

  • Margie

    Well you took me back a few years… Now 63 , but nearly 38 years ago I was very pregnant, tho only just 25 (we started a bit earlier then) facing up to doing Christmas myself. Now four children and 14 grandchildren later and I’m still doing it. I do try to wiggle out, but so far no takers. I’ve gone from the traditional British Hot Christmas dinner to a spit roast BBQ for the first time this year. An Aussie style Christmas ! I’ll be feeding 24, plus a dinner for Grandfather who is 92, who lives alone. Well all the best with the birth, it is truly a wonderful business .. Having them and becoming a family. Remember children are way way more important than a clean house.. Just wish I’d known that back then.

  • This is just what I needed to read, Kasey. I’m just going to keep telling myself there will still be french toast after the baby (and omg snotsucker). Happy holidays, you three! xoxo Noelle

  • Changes can bring such uncertainty and doubt and you write about those emotions so honestly and I can’t wait to ‘meet’ your baby girl. Merry Christmas Kasey, to you and to Matt. I hope you have a really special holiday time together.

  • Margie, thank you for the touching comment! I hope your holiday was fantastic. Sounds like you live a very rich life! Appreciate the advice — my grandparents are always trying to remind me not to worry about the little things in life (like a clean house!). Here’s to a wonderful 2013!

  • Noelle! I hope you are doing and feeling well. There will definitely still be French Toast after baby, I just know it. Happy holidays to you! xoxo Kasey

  • I can’t wait to introduce her to all of the lovely people (like yourself) who are so supportive of me and this site. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and hope you have a wonderful New Year! xo

  • Sonja / A Couple Cooks

    I know I’m echoing other commenters, but your honest voice is so refreshing! I love the way you’ve shared about impending motherhood, and excited to hear about the way it continues to shape you! What a gift 🙂 Hope your holidays were wonderful — looking forward to seeing delicious recipes and insightful writing in 2013. XO

  • Thank you, Sonja! I really appreciate that, and I’m looking forward to sharing more honest thoughts. I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season, and wish you a very happy New Year! Cheers to 2013. xo

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