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Baked Vanilla Toast

This dish is so rich it almost qualifies as dessert. It will tie up your oven for more than an hour, but it's worth it. You'll need a 10- to 12-ounce loaf of bread, crusts optional. To make sure you have the right number of bread slices, fit them into the 9-by-13-inch pan before toasting. They will shrink when they toast.

12 to 14 (1-inch-thick) slices French or Italian bread
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
About 1 cup half and half or additional whipping cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange bread slices 1 inch apart on large ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until bread is crisp and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine water, 1 1/2 cups cream, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand until toast is ready.

Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Arrange toast slices over bottom of pan. Stir vanilla into cream mixture. Spoon 2 spoonfuls of hot mixture over each slice of toast; repeat process, then pour remaining mixture over all the toast. Bake 1 1/4 hours, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle tops of toasts with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Broil 5 inches from heat source until toast surfaces are browned and caramelized. Serve hot; pass pitcher of cream as an accompaniment. Makes 6 servings.

"The Food Lover's Guide to Chocolate & Vanilla" by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Thursday, May 04, 2000

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