When I was growing up I was obsessed with peanut butter. I felt it went with everything and spared no other food from an experimental addition of some ‘PB’ at one time or another. I even would sometimes sneak out of bed and scoop out a handful of it to eat plain (which now sadly sounds more like a closet eating disorder rather than an unbridled childhood culinary fixation).
As kids my Mom would always let us pick what we wanted on our birthdays for breakfast. My choice was always Peanut Butter French Toast. I’m not sure where the original recipe came from; whether my Mom made it up to appease my enthusiastic food crush or whether she found it somewhere.
I’d forgotten about Peanut Butter French Toast as I’ve not had it as an adult, however last week was my birthday and for some reason it sprang to mind. I decided it was the perfect time to create a current recipe to bring my childhood memory out of mothballs into the present. It also meshed with what I really wanted to do for my birthday which was go strawberry picking at a favorite local organic farm. I thought making some Homemade Organic Strawberry Syrup would be a great match.
For me a signature summer food experience is berry picking. My favorite location is Berry Patch Farms in Brighton Colorado. It is an organic farm and a mix between ‘you pick’ and farm-harvested produce that is available for sale in their barn store on site.
Colorado has two strawberry picking seasons; a short one in June and the longer season in August. We’ve had unseasonal early heat which brought on the June strawberries early as well.
Things worked out that the first possible day to go would be my birthday and ironically I received an email from the farm the night before saying that would also be the last picking day of the June season! Seemed like destiny.
On a blustery, hot, relatively crowded day my kids and I spent about 40 minutes searching through the fields for 4 beautiful, perfectly ripened quarts of organic strawberries for which we paid $13 (actually there were a few juice boxes in there too so it would have been less)!
I have mentioned this before but the flavor of a field ripened strawberry tastes nothing like a store purchased strawberries. They are completely sweet in a much fuller, more flavorful way and soft in texture.
It’s really ruined me for purchasing strawberries in a store but there could be a worse fate. If you have a chance to purchase berries freshly picked from a farm or picked yourself, you must do it!
As you might guess this Peanut Butter French toast and Strawberry Syrup combo tastes just like a PBJ sandwich in the best way. With minimal sweetening the natural flavors of both the peanuts and the strawberries shine through.
A note on French toast bread choices. Traditional thinking is that French toast is a perfect use of stale bread as it tends to soak up the egg mixture more. I have followed that and also made French toast with regular bread and find both are good.
I bake my own gluten free bread (Gluten Free Pantry ‘Favorite Sandwich Bread’ augmented with chia seeds and other seeds for additional protein and fiber) so I used that with great results. A favorite French toast bread for me prior to becoming gluten free was croissants. If you have not made French toast with croissants you must try it!
The strawberries I used were very sweet and very soft. If you taste your berries and they are not as sweet you can always add more sweetener to your syrup. I like honey though different varieties can have distinct flavors so always taste it for your liking first.
Also granulated sugar helps preserve the color of the berries in a way honey does not which is another reason I used it. If your berries are harder, you may chop them into very small pieces before attempting to mash them which will help.