Brioche French Toast with Sauteed Seasonal Fruits

In this version of the simple pain perdu, the bread is heavily sugared, so when it is sauteed, it gets encased in a thin shell of buttery caramel. The sweetness of the bread is offset by a mixture of sauteed fruits sauced with reduced rum and orange and lemon juice. Here the choice of fruits is autumnal. In the summer, you can add or substitute a couple of fresh fig halves, a half cup of whole strawberries, or a quartered peach.

For the fruit:
1/4 cup currants
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Reinette apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 Bartlett (Bartlett-Williams) pear, peeled, quartered, and cored
1/2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
1/2 quince, peeled, cored and quartered
1 pomegranate, peeled and seeds scooped out
Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon

For the French toast:
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Four 3/4-inch-thick slices brioche loaf
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 to 1/2 pints rich vanilla ice cream (optional)

To prepare the fruit:
In a small bowl, soak the currants in the rum to soften. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and cook, stirring, until it begins to dissolve, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the apples, pear, pineapple, quince, and pomegranate seeds, stir with a wooden spatula to coat with butter and sugar, and cook until softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the currants with the rum and the orange and lemon juices and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To prepare the French toast:
Beat together the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. With a sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl; or add the extract. Add the milk and stir until blended. Soak each slice of bread thoroughly in the egg mixture (about 2 minutes). Then remove with a slotted spatula and place on a platter. Using a fine strainer, sift confectioners' sugar over the top of each slice of bread to cover evenly.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brioche slices, sugared side down, and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Sift confectioners' sugar over the tops, turn and brown on the other side, adding a tablespoon or two more butter if necessary. Remove from the heat and place each slice in a shallow serving bowl.
Spoon the fruit over the French toast and top, if you wish, with the vanilla ice cream. Serve immediately.
Serves 4
Source: Ducasse Flavors of France. Copyright © 1998 by Alain Ducasse. Reprinted by permission of Artisan.

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