elizabeth kirby

life in the plumper: chronicles of lard and laughter


Thousand Oaks, California, USA
May 06


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DECEMBER 26, 2011 8:18PM

Creme Brulee French Toast: A Kiss from My Kitchen

Rate: 20 Flag

For those of  you hosting Easter Brunch or any brunch for that matter, here's a dish that will make you more loved than the damn bunny or the peeps. Cheers! 

Jean Hanson2

My mother was kicked out of college after having an affair with a married professor and sent to the Stodgy U of higher learning for women only. Where she studied creative writing with William Inge who taught her to make French 75’s and Arroz con Pollo. In turn, she entertained him with Rachmaninoff preludes and strip poker. Of course.

Mom was so easy. Fun, I mean. Once she became a mother, she wore matching skirts and sweaters, poached eggs for breakfast, starched my father’s handkerchiefs, and practiced the “times step” on our linoleum floor. You really didn’t think she did everything normally, did you?

Flirting with her racy past, she proudly displayed the chastity belt she received for 40th birthday gift. Every man at the party had a key.

When my daughter reached age 16 and her hormones were raging like the Mississippi after a spring thaw, I saw my mother’s rowdy spirit emerging. Only this time, the joke was on me. Like my wild and crazy mammacita, Brooke (my daughter) was the antithesis of ordinary. A stunning creature, she was full of hell with a coterie of male creatures eager to make her acquaintance. I felt like the proprietor at the Korean DMZ, surrounded by heat seeking missiles with bad attitudes and no sense of direction.

My only weapon was the whisk and the oven. Brownies, pizza, lasagna, chili gop, frittatas, quesadillas...I made everything that made their heads turn as long as they kept their eyes off my daughter and on the mozzarella. Extra saltpeter, anyone? I figured if the kids were eating in the kitchen, they weren’t doing other things that I really didn’t want them…doing. Oh sure, it sounds funny now. At the time it wasn’t. It was terrifying.

Because I couldn’t reach my daughter. No logic, no discipline, no common sense could penetrate her petticoat. All my efforts seemed to land outside her bubble. Still, I kept throwing but no one was catching - I guess I needed a better arm or she needed a bigger mitt. She was catching, alright, and his name was Joe. 

But I could cook for her. And I did, baby, I served it up big time. It was the only way I could tell her I loved her. I’d be stirring the sauce and she’d be climbing out the front window. Soon, she’d return.

“Are you hungry, honey?” I’d ask. “Sure!” she’d answer, followed by, “Can my friends come?” Oh yeh. Sure, bring the gnomes, misanthropes, and trolls. Bring all the artillery including the missiles. Dinner’s on the table, sportsfans. Batter up. Who’s on first?

18 years later, some things have changed and others…remain the same. Becoming a mother and wife brought the girl down to earth who thankfully, lived to see the day. And so did I without imprisonment or deportation.

Today, she’s no longer sneaking out the window unless she needs to hang her Christmas lights. She’s still being chased by boys, but they are all under age 7 and call her “mom.” She goes to parties but the only commodity she promotes is her flourishing business.

closeup huddy and brooke love it!

And what hasn’t changed? I’m still cooking for her. Yup. You see, her chef is named Trader Joe. Not that I haven’t purchased a few pre-prepared things in my time, but I still prefer the way food appears from the toil of my own hands. Seems she didn’t get the “cooking gene.”

For holidays and family celebrations, it all still happens at my house, “suckers” in red lights should be hanging on our Christmas tree as the big Christmas Eve fête erupts at Camino de Chaos. Now that Santa delivers goods to hers on Christmas morning and because I’m in the dead bug position by midnight on Christmas Eve, I dispatch Crème Brûlée French Toast to her abode.

Hey…I can’t be there but. Here’s breakfast. Creme Brulee French Toast. And by the way….Mom learned how to make Arroz con Pollo. Get with the program.

I love you, Crazy Girl.

Crème Brulee French Toast


This recipe has been adapted from one of Paula Deen’s with a few changes which, of course, I think have improved it greatly if I do say so myself. It’s a “strata”… great for family celebrations because if you are the cheerleader for yours – like I am – you can make this in advance, even a couple of days, and just pop it in the oven. Don’t forget the Grand Marnier.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 (8 to 9) inch loaf unsliced Challah bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons or MORE Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt

A few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg

Powdered sugar

Maple syrup, if desire.

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. 


Whisk mixture until all ingredients are incorporated and pour into a 13 by 9 by 2 - inch baking dish.


Trim all crusts off Challah bread.



Cut (1-inch) thick slices from bread.


Arrange bread slices, tightly, in one layer in baking dish (right into the butter/brown sugar/corn syrup mixture), squeezing them slightly to fit.


In a bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon until combined well and pour evenly over bread.



Chill bread mixture overnight.

When ready to serve, take Crème Brulee French Toast out of refrigerator and let come to room temperature for 1 hour, if possible. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.


Dust with powdered sugar and serve with warm maple syrup, if desired.

And....tell 'em you love 'em.

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This is a great story. And you sound like a great mom as well as a great chef. Loved it.
Thanks so much. My sister lives in Northbrook - let me know where your store is located and she'll visit!
Nice, very nice; loved the story. R
Heart warming. Nice glimpse into your family dynamics with a bonus.
OMG...this was so well written I couldn't read it fast enough! And then a great recipe to end it!!! Should be EP and cover!!!
I love your flair for writing as much as your flair for cooking - and with an offering like that, you don't need to say you love them. It speaks for itself.

And my father was pulled out of college, thrown into the Navy, for totaling his dad's car! Dad was a great cook and would have loved this recipe. I will be happy to make this in his and your mom's honor! Heck, I'd be happy to sample this any day of the week!
What a beautiful story,
and admittedly I am drooling over your photos! Can't wait to try this!
Wonderful story and that recipe sounds delicious!
This is so so so sweet, and not just the recipe. I can see your mother's smile in your photo and in your daughter's. I remember those tenuous mother-daughter years where it seemed like a mother's love wasn't nourishing enough, or at all, and only real food could do that.
She sounds amazing and fun, so glad you survived the teenage years too. Wonderful story and food.r
A mom story and food. Perfect.
Loved your family stories of va-va-voom and home cookin'. Curious that you skipped yourself in the generations of booming hormones, but the eats at the end look fantastic. Laughed a lot! Thanks!

Delightful, all around! I can see from the photos that you all share the same gorgeous smile.
Delightful post, Elizabeth. Your daughter and grandchild are beautiful! Happy New Year to you and your family. Rated.
Oh does that look delicious! And great story of your daughter and distracting teenage males with food. I'll have to try that when my 12-year-old is a teen!
This was excellent! I loved the story, you mom must have been a Pip. (that's a good thing)
I loved this SO much! I'm looking forward to trying out the recipe, too. Thank you!
It's obvious that beauty runs in your family. My goodness, what a stunner and pistol your mother was! Great story! Rated with delight, and to honor your innovation in parenting and your readiness to share your great cooking with others. Love the photo of your daughter and grandbaby.
I love the way you say 'love' with food. I used to impress my boy and man friends' mothers by learning to cook their ethnic foods: czernina, latkes, fry bread, etc. Not only was my life expanded, my recipe file and behind expanded as well. Now my children, who do not have one drop of Polish blood, assume that keilbasa belongs on the Thanksgiving table. Next holiday breakfast, I am adding this recipe to our traditional menu. Thanks!
This is wonderfully written and so delightful to read. Your mother, your daughter and yourself sound like incredible and interesting folks.
Love, love, love this! So glad you both survived! Congrats on the EP!!!
I love this story. It's sweet and well-written. I love the classic food/love approach. Nice pictures, great, sort of surprising theme. Very nice.
Look at how much your daughter looks like your mom!
Sounds wonderful and loved the story/photos. Am sharing on FB!
French toast is my sunday morning treat. I'll have to try your verssion.
Best French (kiss) toast tale ever! Written with love and unsalted butter. Delicious.
Sensational! Looking forward to reading more of your posts. I'm glad your daughter survived the pack of testosterone-fueled guys.
Great recipe. I will use it for my brunch menu. I tried it at home and it tasted delicious