Banana-Stuffed French Toast (on the Panini Grill)

As someone who pulls out her panini maker on a pretty regular basis, I get pretty excited when I stumble across a fun new way to cook with it. Granted, I’ve grilled French toast before, but until yesterday morning I hadn’t ventured to caramelize bananas to stuff inside it and mix up some toasted pecan maple syrup and whip some cinnamon-scented crème fraîche to go on top. I thank chef Bryan Voltaggio (remember from Top Chef Season 6?) and his recipe in the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog for encouraging me to try this restaurant-quality, best French toast I’ve ever had (seriously)!

Caramelized bananas...just like candy!

It was one of those weekend mornings when I should have been reaching for a low-involvement breakfast option like a cup of yogurt or an English muffin. My husband was at the gym, both kids were wide awake and in full “play mode” and I was simultaneously in the process of baking some crusty cheddar-stuffed loaves to feature on my other blog. To cap it off, we had a birthday party to go to at noon. It was now 8 o’clock. In short, this was no time to embark on a high-involvement, multi-step recipe I’d never tried before.

I did it anyway.

When I say this was the best French toast I ever had, I truly mean it. Every ingredient is perfect, from the choice of soft day-old challah for the bread, which soaks up the custard mixture like nothing I’ve seen, to the butter-enriched toasted pecan maple syrup that gets even thicker the longer you let it sit. Leave it to a chef to come up with a whipped crème fraîche topping – see, I would have probably gone with regular whipped cream and that would have been a little too sweet. The crème fraîche (I actually substituted sour cream) is just barely sweet, with a touch of cinnamon, and that tanginess is just the right balance for the otherwise rich, sweet dish. You could always cook off this French toast in a regular skillet or griddle, but the advantage of grilling on a panini press is that you don’t have to attempt to flip the custard-saturated challah.

On a morning that’s not otherwise hectic, allow yourself the time to enjoy preparing this French toast – it will be well worth it!

Banana-Stuffed French Toast



Banana-Stuffed French Toast
Adapted ever so slightly from Bryan Voltaggio/Williams-Sonoma

Serves 6


For the toasted pecan maple syrup:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup

For the whipped crème fraîche:

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the French toast:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1-lb. loaf day-old challah, ends trimmed, bread cut into 6 slices, each 1 1/2 inches thick
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon granulated honey (I omitted this and didn’t miss it)
Seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean


To make the toasted pecan maple syrup, in a fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pecans and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and maple syrup, increase the heat to high and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

To make the whipped crème fraîche, in a bowl, lightly whisk together the cream, crème fraîche, confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon until just combined. Pour the mixture into a cream whipper, add the cartridge according to the manufacturer’s instructions and refrigerate until ready to use. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a cream whipper, you can whip the cream with a hand- or stand mixer until soft peaks form).

To make the French toast, in large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the 2 Tbs. granulated sugar and the water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture is lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bananas and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a slit 2 inches long in one side of each bread slice, cutting three-fourths of the way. Stuff the pockets with the banana mixture, dividing evenly.

Preheat an electric panini maker to “panini” mode. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, cinnamon, granulated honey, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla bean seeds and blend with an immersion blender (or just whisk it). Pour into a baking dish. Soak half of the bread slices for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.

Place the bread on the panini maker and cook, adjusting the top plate so it lightly presses the bread, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the rack-lined baking sheet. Soak and cook the remaining bread slices. Serve the French toast with the pecan maple syrup and whipped crème fraîche.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Maria wrote:

    I wish I was eating this now!

    Posted 1.11.11 Reply
  2. This looks delicious!

    Posted 1.11.11 Reply
  3. This sounds like perfection! I love each and every part of this and am seriously wishing I had a plate of this in front of me right now.

    Posted 1.11.11 Reply
  4. This french toast sounds amazing Kathy! I’m wishing I could have some right now. I can totally relate on tackling a recipe when it may not be the right time. I have to say I’m so glad you did make this though! That way you could share with all of us. 🙂

    Posted 1.11.11 Reply
  5. Mindy wrote:

    Hmmm…French toast on the panini grill–I may have to try that! (I’ve always been a little scared of making French toast. I don’t know why as I grew up eating it, but doing it on a panini press sounds a little less daunting somehow!)

    Posted 1.11.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      No need to fear the French toast, Mindy! And, yes, the panini maker makes it much easier since you don’t have to flip it. 🙂

      Posted 1.11.11 Reply
  6. I haven’t had french toast in ages! This looks so good!

    Posted 1.14.11 Reply
  7. Bren wrote:

    yup! a winner. I like your argument for using the press! no flipping involved!

    Posted 2.16.11 Reply