Oh, when times were flush and you were loaded, you ate brioche, the millionaire’s bread. Fifty percent butter by weight, you ate it fresh, smearing rich fingerprints all over your coffee mug. What of the leftovers? "Bah!" you said, throwing them out. "I’m made of dough! I don’t eat stale bread!" But then the economy turned to mush and now you’re thinking that maybe tossing food isn't such a super idea anymore.
My friend Emily, the chief baking officer of the super-cute Sweet Cakes Bakery in Chicago, feels your pain and wants to introduce you to the Bostock. (I swear that’s her job title, not something I made up for my stupid economic downturn angle.) This thing is out of control. You take stale, day-old bread, soak it in almond syrup, top it with frangipane -- sweetened, buttery almond paste -- and bake it until the syrup forms a crisp, lightly caramelized sheen. Moist and rich inside, it's like bread pudding you can hold, but only so much better because, if you recall, it’s topped with frangipane. If you topped a manhole cover with frangipane, I’d break my teeth on it.
To my mind, it's the ultimate French toast replacement -- no more batter, no more soggy messes, no more slices burning, eggy and gross, as you try to sauté enough at one time to feed an entire tableful of breakfasters. Baking them on trays means you're freed from that desperate push on the pans. And while this is, honestly, best with brioche, really any stale bread will work. Emily even suggests replacing the frangipane with jam and turning the oven down to 325.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 ounces (one stick) butter
- 8 ounces almond paste (not marzipan; this product has less sugar), room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons flour (cake is best, but all-purpose will do)
Baking and Assembly
- Stale brioche or other good-quality bread -- it has to be stale!
- Toasted, sliced almonds, to taste, for topping
- Maybe a handgun to keep people away
- Bring everything to a boil. Let cool. Will keep for weeks in your fridge.
- Cream butter and sugar in a mixer, as if for cake.
- Break up almond paste into 1-inch chunks and add to butter and sugar, mixing until not quite fully incorporated (a few BB-sized bits are OK).
- Add eggs one at a time.
- Add flour all at once and continue mixing until just incorporated. It should be very soft and spreadable, like the creamed butter and sugar. Store in the fridge or freezer, where it will also last for weeks.
- Preheat your oven to 350° and put Aretha Franklin on the stereo. Really. It doesn’t come out right if she’s not kicking it.
- Lightly grease a baking sheet, or use some nonstick spray. Scraping caramel is so déclassé.
- Cut bread into 1.5-inch slices. Don't stress over the precision, but do right, woman (do right, man).
- Dunk the slices in a bowl of syrup until they stop bubbling, then squeeze them out like a sponge and place them an inch or two apart on your pan. You really need the bread to be stale or it’ll turn to mush right about now.
- Spread the frangipane from edge to edge, about as much as you would to make a peanut butter sandwich. "Not too much," Emily says. "You’re trying to make money off of food that's garbage. Uh, I mean, it's about economics and preventing waste. Oh, just don’t write that, will you? You’re going to get me in trouble."
- Sprinkle almond slices on top and bake in a 350° oven about 15-20 minutes, just enough to set the frangipane and, if you’ve been good and Aretha’s been playing loud, enough to slightly caramelize the edges and keep the inside moist.
That's it. It takes hardly any time and even less effort, and it’s so good you might be persuaded to live this financially responsibly forever.