Cincy Chic: You recently won in the sweets category of the Tree Top recipe competition with your apple toffee French toast, so what was your inspiration for the dish?
Recipe contest winner Nadine Mesch: My friend, Sydney, has encouraged me to enter recipe contests for several years now. She knows my love of cooking, and she is the one who showed me the contest. My first thought was to submit my French toast recipe, but before I did I developed a new apple syrup to serve with it. I knew when I submitted [the recipe] that if the judges would just try it, they would love it.
Cincy Chic: Care to share the recipe?
Mesch: Apple Toffee French Toast with Apple Syrup (Serves 8)
- 8 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tart apples, cored, peeled, chopped
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup Tree Top apple juice
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
- 1/2 cup English toffee bits
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups Tree Top apple juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons butter
Place half the bread cubes in a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan; top with apples. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugars, Tree Top apple juice and one teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Stir in toffee bits. Spread over apples. Top with remaining bread cubes. In another large bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla until well blended. Pour over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve French toast with apple syrup. While baking French toast, prepare syrup.
Apple Syrup: In a medium size saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, Tree Top apple juice and lemon juice and heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for one minute. Add butter. Serve over warm apple toffee French toast.
Serving Suggestions — Spoon warm syrup over French toast. For real decadence, dollop a spoonful of whipped cream on top.
Cincy Chic: Tell readers a little bit more about your experience in the competition and having your recipe at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival.
Mesch: Tree Top and the New York City Wine & Food Festival experience were phenomenal. The hotel was beautiful and the Food Network events were "over the top fun." Having Tree Top present my recipe at the Grand tasting was quite an experience, as was meeting the stars from the Food Network. Being able to taste food prepared by some of the best chefs was a real treat and an experience my husband and I would never would have been able to experience on our own.
Cincy Chic: This is for our Heat Things Up issue, so what advice do you have for readers who want to heat things up in their kitchen?
Mesch: Be adventurous. Try a new recipe. Use an ingredient that you never used before. There are so many great Web sites that not only offer recipes but also give user reviews. The Web sites and reviews help when you are a hesitant cook because the recipe will more likely turn out well.
Cincy Chic: When you’re not in the kitchen, what do you like to do for fun?
Mesch: My time spent with family and friends is what I enjoy most. In the summer, I also enjoy gardening, and I must admit to having an antiquing addiction. I am certain that there isn’t an antique store in a 50 mile radius that I haven’t been to.
Cincy Chic: What do you love most about Cincinnati?
Mesch: I love the friendliness of the people. My husband and I moved here 30 years ago and this is our home. It’s been a great place to raise our children, and over the years we have adopted many friends that are our family of the heart.
Photos courtesy of Nadine Mesch