Early last December Joe and I visited Panama City Beach, FL for a short getaway. We thought a visit to the Sunshine State before Christmas would be a great time to get away without all the crowds and have the beach to ourselves. We were prepared for cooler weather but determined to enjoy the sunshine and white sandy beaches. Little did we know Mother Nature had other ideas. It was unusually cold and rained the entire time we were there. We rented a little condo on the beach where you walk off your deck straight onto the beautiful white sand. It would have been paradise had the wind not been so blustery with cold rain coming off the ocean. Mostly we just looked out the window because it was just too cold to venture out. We expected mid 50’s and got 30 and 40 degree weather, brrrr. It wasn’t a total loss, we went out to the movies and found a couple museums to wander around. We decided we would splurge for a big breakfast, skip lunch and find some good seafood to eat for dinner. My favorite breakfast was from Andy’s Flour Power Cafe and Bakery. I had the french toast plate with thick slices of french toast topped with candied pecans and fresh strawberries. I loved every bite and vowed to recreate it one day. This is my version of the Flour Power French Toast!
It’s the pecans that make this french toast special. If you’ve ever smelled and tasted those cinnamon roasted nuts that you find at festivals and state fairs then you know how addictive they are. They are so good yet so simple to make. You need a mix of sugar, cinnamon and salt in one bowl. And in another bowl a mix of 1 egg white, water and vanilla. I made 1/2 pound of pecans which was way more than I needed for this recipe. But they won’t last long, if they sit out on the counter you will find they disappear in no time.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Spray a light coating of Pam or other cooking spray onto a baking sheet. Arrange the pecans on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. Stir the pecans and bake another 20 minutes. One last stir and back into the oven for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.
You will know when they are done as they have a crunchy texture and have a distinct aroma of cinnamon roasted goodness. Be careful not to overcook as they can burn and you will definitely know that smell, it’s not good!
A little tidbit that I learned after I made the first batch of french toast. Scrape the cinnamon sugar left behind on the baking sheet and toss in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the cooked french toast for a little added flavor burst.
6 slices Crusty Artisan Bread
1/2 cup Half & Half
Pinch of Salt
Powdered Sugar, optional
Cinnamon Roasted Pecans (adapted from Firefly Tales)
1 Egg White
1 teaspoon Water
1 teaspoon Vanilla
8 ounces Pecans
1/2 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
To make Cinnamon Roasted Pecans, preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt in a zip lock bag, set aside.
Whisk together the egg white, water and vanilla in a medium bowl until slightly foamy. Stir in the pecans until they are completely coated in the egg white mixture. Shake the sugar mixture in a zip lock bag and add pecans to the mix. Shake the bag until all pecans are fully coated in the cinnamon sugar mix.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the pecans in a single layer across the sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir the pecans and bake for another 20 minutes. Again, stir the pecans and bake for 5 – 10 minutes more. Once they appear to have a crunchy texture, remove from oven and let cool. Any unused pecans can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.
To make french toast, heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Whisk together eggs, half and half and salt together in a medium bowl. Soak bread slices in the egg mixture. If using artisan bread, soak a bit longer as it is denser and takes longer to soak up the liquid. Melt a pat of butter on griddle. Add the soaked bread and cook approximately 2 minutes or until the edges become crisp and the toast is golden brown. Flip to cook other side an additional 1 – 2 minutes. Cook additional slices of french toast as described above.
Chop pecans and sprinkle over warm french toast. Add raspberries, maple syrup and powdered sugar.
Makes 2 – 3 servings
*Note: Cinnamon Roasted Pecans taste great on your favorite salad.