Fabio's Easy Stuffed French Toast

French toast is a simple breakfast staple, but it doesn't have to be boring. Ditch the maple syrup with Chef Fabio's Italian twist on this morning favorite, stuffed with creamy mascarpone and drizzled with a quickly made blueberry compote. This dish is perfect for a lazy brunch with the family or for special guests, such as Cristina Ferrare of Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family."

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Recipe by Fabio Viviani
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients for the French toast:
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen, thawed and drained)
2 tablespoons honey
6 eggs
1/3 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 slices Italian bread, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch thick slices
Cooking spray as needed
Ground cinnamon to taste
Warm blueberry compote (recipe follows)
2 mint sprigs for garnish

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the mascarpone, blueberries, and honey. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until well combined. Whisk in the milk, the 1 teaspoon lemon zest, vanilla, and nutmeg.
Pour the egg mixture into a shallow pan large enough to hold 4 slices of bread in one layer.
Place four slices of the bread in the egg mixture.
Top each slice with some of the mascarpone mixture, and then top with another slice of bread to create a sandwich. Press the sandwich firmly but be careful not to push out the filling.
Flip the sandwich to coat the other side with egg.
Heat a griddle pan over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray.
Place each sandwich on the griddle and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Cook until golden brown, about 90 seconds. Flip each sandwich over to brown the other side, 60 to 90 seconds.
Transfer the French toast to 2 plates. Garnish with additional lemon zest and fresh mint.
Drizzle with blueberry compote, and serve immediately.

Ingredients for the blueberry compote:
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen, thawed and drained)
1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a small saucepan, stir together the water, honey, orange juice, and lemon zest. Add the blueberries and cornstarch, and whisk until smooth.
Bring to a boil over high heat, covered. Reduce heat and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Use warm.


Culinary Tips:

--For best results, buy a whole loaf of bread from the bakery, and slice it yourself. Thicker slices make for better French toast.
--Frozen blueberries will work fine in this recipe, but be sure to thaw and drain them before using in both the mascarpone filling and compote.
--The compote can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, covered, for up to three days. At serving time, reheat the mixture until it is warm, stirring frequently.

Like this dish? Check out these other great BREAKFAST RECIPES from "Chow Ciao!"

Savory Ricotta-Blueberry Pancakes
Fluffy Doughnuts
Chocolate-Bacon Muffins
Cinnamon Buns