This recipe is entirely inspired by the state cookie of New Mexico, the biscochito (or bizcochito), and more specifically its spice combination of cinnamon, sugar, and ground anise seeds. I don’t often make individual slices of french toast, but I’m a huge fan of baked french toast, where extra egg mixture is poured over layers of bread resulting in a custardy-bread-pudding-like consistency. Before it goes into the oven, it’s topped with a pecan crumble and when it emerges from the oven a caramel-hued golden brown, it’s topped with red chile mascarpone. The italian cream cheese begins melting instantly and for the finishing touch, the french toast is drizzled with a warm concoction of melted butter whisked with maple syrup. I usually serve some kind of salad with this decadent dessert for breakfast and feel good about all of it.
Most crumble toppings will include a flour of some kind to bind the nuts, sugar, and butter together. In the recipe, I give three options because they all work providing varying degrees of texture, and most importantly I want you to feel freedom to use what you can find or have on hand. This could be all-purpose flour, nut flours, or in this case, cornmeal.
For a moment, let’s talk about corn. I chose to use it because it is a food that’s cultivated, and cared for in abundance here, more than anywhere else I have lived. I try to buy posole, chicos, and corn meal from local, small farms whenever possible. Working as a chef mostly in large cities, I used to think I knew so much about food. I don’t make that mistake anymore. Corn is just one of the foods that helped me realize I will be a student here for the rest of my life, no matter how many methods and techniques I learn along the way.
I remember as a young cook, working in restaurants where ingredients were sourced from far off places. Once they arrived, we would make them into creams, purees, powders, foams, and gelees. In our pressed white jackets, there was often a collective pride about our innovative inventions, as if we were painters and each dish was our own work of art. I cringe a little now and also remember these days with great fondness. We worked so hard, with so much creative, passionate energy. Then recently I found a notebook filled with old sketches of dishes that I had either pitched to chefs I worked for or later made myself when I was writing my own restaurant menus. From my kitchen table, sipping on piñon coffee and hearing the wind chimes sing in the yard, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the ideas felt a bit flat. This is the gift of living and cooking in New Mexico. There is nothing flat about a blue corn enchilada topped with red chile, or better yet both red and green. I’m thinking of a few chefs here that take a contemporary approach to these ingredients, deconstructing them, fitting them back together with an artists eye and heart. Still, the contextual richness remains. These foods reach deep into our sandy and silted soil, carrying with them a living history steeped in story, responsibility, family, and landscape.
A finely ground cornmeal will have a flour-esque consistency and act as a soft binder with the pecan mixture, while a medium ground cornmeal will add a little more crunch to the topping. You could also use masa harina (dough flour), where field corn is nixtamalized (cooked and soaked in an alkaline lime solution also called “cal” which is calcium hydroxide, or sifted wood ash) before being dehydrated and pulverized into a powder. This process, invented by indigenous Mesoamericans more than 3,500 years is a culinary marvel—it makes niacin, also known as B-3, bioavailable, a vitamin that turns food into energy. Amino acids come to life, myotoxins and fungi are destroyed and what was once considered a risk to eat in large quantities, is now a nutrient filled food source. If you choose to use masa harina in your crumble topping, you can expect more depth of flavor as opposed to the brighter and lighter corn flavor or cornmeal.
This is the perfect dish when you’re cooking breakfast or brunch for a crowd. I like to build it the night before, wrap it and keep it in the fridge. The next morning, while the oven is preheating, I remove the baking dish from the fridge so it can warm up a bit. This protects our baking dish from a drastic shift in temperature (cold to hot) which could cause damage to the baking dish.Print
Biscochito French Toast
This baked french toast recipe is entirely inspired by the state cookie of New Mexico, the biscochito (or bizcochito), and more specifically its spice combination of cinnamon, sugar, and ground anise seeds. This is the perfect dish when you’re cooking breakfast or brunch for a crowd.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 45 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 8-10 servings
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: New Mexican
for the crumble topping:
- 1/2 c. pecans
- 2 T. cornmeal (fine or medium grind), corn flour or masa harina
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
- 2 t. ground cinnamon
- 3 T. butter, melted
for the french toast:
- 2 T. butter, softened
- 8 large eggs
- 2 c. whole milk
- 2 T. maple syrup
- 1 T. vanilla bean paste or extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 t. ground anise seeds
- 1 loaf challah bread, cut into 1-inch slices
for the mascarpone:
- 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 c. powdered sugar
- 1–2 t. New Mexico red chile powder, depending on the heat
- 2 t. Vanilla bean paste or extract
- Maple syrup with a few nubs of butter melted in a saucepan
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Rub softened butter all over the bottom and sides of a large cast iron pan or 9×13 baking dish. First, make the crumble topping: In a small bowl, stir together the pecans, corn flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter. Sprinkle half of the crumble topping across the bottom of your prepared pan. Reserve the rest.
Now, prepare the egg mixture: In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and anise. Soak each slice of bread in the mixture and let it soak for around 15 seconds on each side. Transfer the slices to your buttered pan as you go and layer as you see fit depending on the size and shape of your pan. If there’s any remaining egg, pour it over the bread. Sprinkle the remaining crumble topping over the bread pieces and transfer this to the oven to bake for 45 minutes.
While the French toast is baking, make the mascarpone: whisk together the mascarpone, powdered sugar, red chile powder, and vanilla.
When the french toast comes out of the oven, either dollop the mascarpone over the top and serve family style, or you can cut pieces of the French toast and dollop each piece with the mascarpone. Drizzle with warm buttery maple syrup and enjoy!
Keywords: breakfast, baked french toast, biscochito, sweet breakfast
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