Cheese Week! Stuffed French Toast, for starters…

This week is one that’s anticipated by many in our fair state, as the State Fair opens on Thursday. Not only is there unparallelled people watching, but the State Fair also brings forth some truly innovative food concepts for the masses to taste and either love or hate.

But that’s not what Cheese Week is about. Rather, Cheese Week encourages you cheese lovers out there to look beyond the State Fair to another event taking place within the State Fairgrounds a couple of weeks after the last carnival ride pulls out: the Minnesota Cheese Festival.

For two days (Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15), area food artisans from Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond will share their wares and knowledge with ticket holders. There are two 3-hour tasting sessions each day, and tickets are limited to 1,000 per session – so you’ll be able to get up close and personal with your fromage of choice without feeling pressured to move on to another section.

When the Cheese Festival folks asked me if I would like to talk about the upcoming event here, that was pretty much like asking me if I felt like breathing. It was a no-brainer. Then they offered to give away a pair of tickets to the upcoming event to a lucky reader, and I couldn’t wait to get started!

So, to quote Maria von Trapp, let’s start at the very beginning. A breakfast recipe featuring cheese from one of the vendors you can meet at the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival. And look for the chance to enter and win a pair of your own tickets to the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival! (Details at the end of this post.)

French toast is one of those “don’t have anything else planned” lazy morning breakfasts. And we love the original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated – how the flour in the batter helps build up the crust, and the way it sings as the slice of bread hits the pool of melted butter. Stuffed French toast – featuring a lightly spiced sweet cheese filling – is definitely gilding the lily. So of course we took it a step further here, and made up a sauce featuring fresh blueberries to put on top of this batch. You could swap out the berries for maple syrup, a fistful of candied pecans, sliced bananas, ripe peaches…you get the idea.

Stuffed French Toast

(from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook)

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened — I found an 8-ounce brick from Organic Valley, one of the fine cheesemakers you can meet at the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival. Or if you can’t make it to the festival, just buy it at your local grocery store like I did.
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 8 slices high-quality white bread (like Pepperidge Farm)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and all of the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir till smooth. Wrap tightly and chill for about 20 minutes.

IMG_3575Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the middle position. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange the bread on a rack set over a rimmed baking sleet. Bake it until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Don’t skip this step; it dries out the bread just enough so it soaks in even more of the batter when you fry it up later.
IMG_3576Spread the cream cheese evenly over 4 pieces of bread. Leave a 1/2-inch at the edges. Lightly press the rest of the slices over the top to make 4 sturdy sandwiches.
IMG_3578 IMG_3580Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk it with the milk, egg, vanilla, salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Slowly whisk in the flour until smooth. Pour the batter into a large shallow dish.
IMG_3577Slide 2 sandwiches into the batter and soak both sides, about 1 minute per side. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, swirling to coat the pan.
IMG_3579Remove the bread from the batter. Let excess batter drip back in the dish. Lay two sandwiches in the hot skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2.5 minutes per side.
IMG_3581 IMG_3583Transfer to a wire rack and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the other two sandwiches.
IMG_3585Then, top with your favorites, grab a cup of coffee, and while you’re busy stuffing your mouth with the molten sweet cheesy goodness, keep reading to find out how you can connect with other lovely cheeses like this…
Want to visit the Minnesota Cheese Festival?
Tickets are sold in advance, not at the door – so head on over to their Eventbrite site to place your order. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, enter to win a free pair of tickets here! Just follow these steps:
  1. Leave a comment below, answering the following question: what’s your favorite way to enjoy cheese?
  2. For an extra entry, head on over to the Minnesota Cheese Festival’s Facebook page and give them a “like” (loop back and let me know if you did that).
  3. For another extra credit entry, follow those cheese lovers over on the Twitter (and let me know here that you did).
The giveaway closes this Friday, August 23. A winner will be chosen using, and notified via email.
The formal language stuff we need to add:
Prize furnished courtesy of the Minnesota Cheese Festival. No compensation was provided to me personally. (In other words, I acquired this cheese honestly at the grocery store.) All opinions are my own – and if you don’t believe me, you can always ask my mom. You don’t have to be a resident of Minnesota to enter, but the drive will be a bit shorter. They’d be flattered as all get-out if you came from far away, though.
Good luck! And stay tuned for more Cheese Week goodness…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Cristy Brusoe says:

    My favorite way to enjoy cheese… hmm… well to be honest, I don’t get to enjoy it as often as I would like being semi-lactose intolerant (essentially when I choose lactose over the repercussions). There is one type of cheese that I have about once a year that I don’t ever give a second thought too before devouring. It stems from my childhood. My grandpa recently retired from a 15 year “retirement job” at the local dairy near Grantsburg, WI. He used to bring home all types of goodies when we would visit. One of which was the glorious shoestring cheese. It’s one of those types of cheeses that you take a nibble of… and before you know it… the entire strand is gone. Yes… that is absolutely my favorite way to break my intolerance. And of coarse I liked the FB/Twitter pages. 🙂

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