This take on French toast is perfect for a Boxing Day brunch,
stretching the Christmas indulgence into another day.
120 gmcaster sugar500 gmcherries, pittedThinlypeeled rind and juice of 1 lemon2eggs, lightly beaten60 ml (¼ cup)milk1 tspground cinnamon60 gmbutter, for fryingCherry loaf160 mlmilk1½ tspdried yeast5egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten375 gm (2½ cups)plain flour, sieved30 gmcaster sugar1 tbspground cinnamon150 gmsoftened butterFor brushing:eggwashFor dusting:demerara sugarVanilla cream125 ml (½ cup)thickened cream125 ml (½ cup)milk½vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped3egg yolks40 gmcaster sugar25 gmcornflour120 gm (½ cup)crème fraîche
Scatter sugar over base of a large saucepan over medium heat, heat until sugar begins to melt (1-2 minutes). Add cherries, lemon rind and juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy (10-12 minutes). Remove from heat, remove half the cherries with a slotted spoon and coarsely chop. Set aside chopped cherries. Refrigerate whole cherries in syrup in an airtight container until required.
For cherry loaf, warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm. Combine yeast and half the milk in a bowl, stir to dissolve and stand in a warm place until foamy (8-10 minutes). Whisk remaining milk with yolks in a bowl and set aside. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast mixture and yolk mixture, knead on medium speed until a smooth dough forms (4-5 minutes). While mixing, gradually add butter and beat until dough is elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl (8-10 minutes).Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand until doubled in size (1½-2 hours). Knock back dough, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, roll out to a 15cm x 23cm rectangle and scatter over reserved chopped cherries. Roll to form a long cylinder, place in an 11cm x 24cm loaf tin buttered and lined with baking paper. Cover and stand until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Brush loaf with eggwash, dust with demerara sugar, bake until golden and cooked through (30-40 minutes). Cool slightly in tin then cool completely on a wire rack. Cherry loaf can be prepared 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Meanwhile, for vanilla cream, bring cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, remove from heat, stand to infuse (30 minutes). Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl to combine, whisk in cornflour until smooth. Meanwhile, bring cream mixture to just below boiling over medium-high heat, then strain onto yolk mixture, whisking continuously to combine. Transfer to a clean saucepan, whisk continuously over medium-high heat until thick (4-6 minutes). Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl over ice, stir occasionally to cool, then cover closely with plastic wrap and chill completely (30-40 minutes). Fold through crème fraîche and refrigerate until required.
Preheat oven to 150C. Cut cherry loaf into 10 slices, spread half the slices with 2 tbsp vanilla cream, sandwich with remaining bread and set aside. Whisk eggs, milk and cinnamon in a bowl to combine. Heat one third of the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat until foaming, dip sandwiches in egg mixture, shaking off excess, and cook in batches, turning once, until golden (2-4 minutes). Transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper and place in oven to keep warm. Wipe pan clean with absorbent paper and repeat with remaining butter and sandwiches. Serve hot, drizzled with cherries in syrup, with remaining vanilla cream.