Polenta French Toast
For me, growing up in an Italian family, polenta was always a savory dish and served exclusively in one of two ways: soft-style with red sauce or soft-style with Italian sausage. Go figure ;-) Until last year, that was the extent of my experience with the Italian version of grits, and while delicious, I was happy to start branching out and experimenting with other ways to enjoy the cornmeal dish. My first attempt at a sweet variety of polenta was Vanilla & Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta, which is an unbelievable way to start the day. Sweet and porridge-like, it’s a great alternative to oatmeal when you are in the mood for something different. I then moved on to Polenta Pizza, which uses polenta as a crust that you can top with vegetables, your favorite pizza toppings, or anything your heart desires. It’s awesome as a main dish or cut into squares for appetizers.
Continuing my quest to make new and different dishes using polenta, this version of French toast immediately caught my attention. And then it subsequently won over my taste buds.
This is pretty much like breakfast polenta, part II. A batch of sweetened polenta is prepared and then instead of eating it hot right then (which you could totally do, and save the leftovers for a smaller batch of this French toast!), you spread it into a pan (I used a 9×13) and let it firm up in the fridge overnight. This version of sweetened polenta uses maple syrup instead of brown sugar and is flavored with orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. I think the combination of orange zest and cinnamon really makes this, and I would definitely include both (especially the orange zest!). Dipping the triangles in flour allows the pieces to develop a nice crisp crust while in the pan, which is a great contrast to the soft and smooth texture of the inside.
I served this with maple syrup, berries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Top yours with your favorite French toast adornments, and enjoy a delicious twist on a breakfast favorite!
Polenta French Toast
For the Polenta:
6½ cups water
½ teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups cornmeal
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 orange
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup milk
For the French Toast:
½ cup flour (corn, semolina or all-purpose)
Butter (for frying)
1. Make the polenta: Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes.
2. Whisk in the syrup, cinnamon, orange zest, nutmeg and milk. Cook for another 30 minutes. Spread polenta into a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Make the French toast: Cut the cold polenta into squares and cut each square into two triangles. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and melt about 2 tablespoons of butter per four triangles. Toss the polenta squares with flour, dusting off excess. Add to the pan and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and fruit.