French Toast with Caramelized Bananas and Walnuts
Welcome to the weekend!!!TGIS!!!! I imagine you have slept in a bit if you were able to. Oh how I wish that I could languish under the covers for just a few hours more but my body makeup just won't allow it. I find myself up at the same time every day and raring to go no matter what. With the time change in effect as of last night I suppose in theory I did sleep in for the first time since this same day last year:D I'd have to say I am definitely a morning person. How about you?
Spring has arrived in full force!!!! The time change confirms it. The return of the robins and morning doves, the bloom of the forsythia all confirm it... and let's not forget maple syrup season!!! These are truly all signs of more to come. What I remember most about growing up in the province of Ontario in eastern Canada was heading to the sugar bush in the early Spring...March to be exact... with my family. There is no finer sound to the ear than the soft crystal granular crunch of snow underfoot along with the familiar aroma of burning wood from the sugar shack intermingled with the unforgettable and mouth watering sweet scent of natures tree nectar lingering in the air. A trip to the sugarbush with the family would never be complete without the taste of fresh 'hot-off-the grill' pancakes and sausages smothered in Canadian maple syrup. This would all mean that Spring has arrived or at least is not far off for those of you in Eastern Canada. These traditions I passed down to my own daughter and even if we no longer live in the east these cherished memories are burned in our minds forever. Of course living in the west we do not have the maple forests so there are no trips to the sugar bush but on the coast they do produce birch syrup here which has a distinctive flavour of its own. Someday I may be lucky enough to be on the coast and witness the production first hand.
Long before the Europeans arrived in North America, the native peoples of Eastern Canada were collecting sap from maple trees and heating it in hollowed-out logs until it was syrupy. The boiling of sap to make maple syrup and maple sugar is one of the oldest traditions in North America and is part of Canada’s heritage. Canada is famous around the world for its pure maple syrup. Though all trees produce sap, maple trees produce greater quantities with a sweeter taste which the pioneers capitalized on. Only a few varieties of maple trees (found in southeastern Canada and northeastern United States) have the high sugar content necessary for maple syrup.
- Maple syrup is a distinctly North American product. Canada produces about 83% of the world's supply. Quebec produces nearly 92% of this, Ontario 4% and the Maritime Region (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) 4%. Maple syrup is also produced in the Northeastern United States from Minnesota to Maine and south to West Virginia.
- During the sugaring season, the average tree yields 35 to 50 litres of sap, which produces one to 1.5 litres of maple syrup. On average, it takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup.
- Birch syrup, made from birch trees, is used the same way as maple syrup but is more difficult to make (and this is reflected in the price). On average, it takes 80 to 100 litres of sap to produce one litre of syrup (twice that needed for maple syrup).
This recipe is based on one I found in Canadian Living magazine. This year they are celebraing their 35th anniversary so they have been around for a while and still going strong. In fact I always remember as a teenager wanting to work for that publication. I don't know whatever happened to that dream but here we are.
Notes: The orginal recipe called for using toasted pecans but one of my favourite ice creams has always been Maple Walnut so this combination appealed to me more. When making French toast my preference is to use Italian bread for that chewy effect I love, but use any type you prefer from cinnamon swirl to brioche. The cooking time for the bananas is dependent on how ripe they are so to avoid an unappealing result be mindful of the total cooking time. Oh and don't forget the rum which makes this an adult only breakfast. The kids can have straight maple syrup for their sugar high:D
Enjoy the recipe!
**French Toast with Caramelized Bananas and Walnuts**
1/3 cup(75 mL) chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups( 375 mL) 5% cream or milk
2 tablespoons (25 mL) maple syrup
1 teaspoon (5 mL) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 loaf (1 lb/500 h) Italian bread
2 tablespoons (25 mL) butter
2 tablespoons (25 mL) butter6 firm ripe bananas, halved crosswise and lengthwise
3/4 cup (175 mL) maple syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) corn syrup
1/4 cup (50 mL) dark rum
In baking sheets, toast walnuts in 325F (160C) oven, about 6 minutes. Set aside. (To toast nuts I usually take the easy way out and add my nuts to a pyrex plate which I put in the microwave on HIGH for approximately 1 minute. Depending on the amount of nuts on the plate, you may need to add minutes to your cooking time until you smell that toasted nut scent).
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream (milk), maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Cut the Italian bread into 1/4-inch (2 cm) thick slices; dip into egg mixture until soaked. (I am a light dipper:D)
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter (15 mL) over medium heat; cook slices, in batches and adding more butter as needed, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to 2 baking sheets. bake in top and bottom thirds of 350F (180C) oven until puffed and heated through, about 8 minutes. This method works well for making French toast for a larger crowd.
Caramelized Bananas: Meanwhile, in large skillet, melt half of the butter over medium-high heat; fry half of the bananas, turning once, until golden and tender, about 3 minutes. (The time may vary depending on the ripeness of your bananas. You want them to retain their firmness so keep in mind they will be added to the caramel to cook a little longer after this step). Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining bananas.
In the same skillet, bring maple syrup, sugar, corn syrup and rum to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in bananas; simmer for 1 minute. Spoon over French toast; sprinkle with walnuts.
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