Easy dinner recipes: Breakfast for dinner with French toast 5 ways

Breakfast for dinner? You bet! Sometimes there's nothing better than French toast -- any time of the day.

Square One's take on French toast is thin slices of brioche dipped in a rich, homemade crème anglaise, then grilled to fluffy, golden perfection. You almost don't need butter and maple syrup.

Thinking stuffed French toast? I loved this take — small, mascarpone-stuffed rounds, lightly scented with cinnamon and fried, then topped with a bright orange compote. And it's perfect for company; make the compote and assemble the "sandwiches" ahead of time, then fry shortly before serving. It takes a little over an hour to make, but boy is it worth it.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Extra-crispy: The trick to this French toast is a combination of cornflakes and buttery palmiers, which add great crunch and rich flavor. With a topping of apples and a dusting of powdered sugar, it makes for a perfect start to the day. Now you can have a taste of the South right here in Southern California.

Or go the savory route. This take on the comfort food -- stuffed with bacon, Gruyère cheese and dandelion greens and pan-fried to ooey-gooey perfection -- works well any time of the day. And dinner is served in less than an hour.

We also include the classic for you purists.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

SQUARE ONE DINING'S FRENCH TOAST

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus chilling time

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from a recipe from Square One Dining. Whole-loaf brioche is available at Trader Joe's and Breadbar (pain de mie); it also can be ordered at Whole Foods. Clarified butter is available at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, well-stocked supermarkets and Indian grocery stores. You also can make it by heating a small amount of butter over low heat in a small saucepan; ladle out the clarified butter, straining out the floating solids, discarding the butterfat on the bottom of the pan.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided

3/4 of a vanilla bean (split lengthwise)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Generous 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

10 egg yolks

1 tablespoon clarified butter

1 loaf brioche bread, sliced into 1/2 -inch thick slices

1. To make the crème anglaise, place 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan over low heat. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean pod into the cream, then drop in the pod too. Bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks. Whisk half of the sugar-salt mixture into the cream, and whisk the other half into the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm cream into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly until incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return the pan to low heat.

3. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly but not vigorously until the mixture thickens, making sure to prevent the mixture from curdling. When thickened, remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, discarding any solids and the vanilla pod. Whisk in the remaining one-half cup heavy cream, and whisk over an ice water bath to cool. Cool the crème anglaise in the refrigerator, preferably overnight for the flavors to develop.

4. To make the French toast, heat a sauté pan or griddle over medium heat until hot. Add enough of the clarified butter to thinly coat the surface of the pan. Dip the bread, one slice at a time, into the crème anglaise to coat on both sides, then remove, shaking off any excess batter.

5. Place the bread on the pan or griddle and grill 2 minutes per side, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and set aside in a warm place. To serve, place four slices on a warm plate and serve immediately with softened butter and maple syrup on the side.

Each serving: 928 calories; 15 grams protein; 66 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 68 grams fat; 39 grams saturated fat; 779 mg. cholesterol; 292 mg. sodium.

MASCARPONE-STUFFED FRENCH TOAST WITH ORANGE COMPOTE

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Servings: 6 to 9

Note: Adapted from the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. This recipe requires a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter.

Orange compote

3 (10.5 ounce) cans mandarin oranges packed in juice

2 3/4 cups orange juice, divided, more as needed

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Drain the canned mandarin oranges, reserving the juice; you should have 1 1/2 cups reserved juice (if you are short, make up the difference with additional orange juice).

2. In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the canned oranges, reserved mandarin juice, 2 1/2 cups orange juice, ginger and sugar over high heat.

3. Bring the mixture to a strong simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the compote is reduced to sauce consistency, about 40 minutes. As the compote reduces, the color will deepen to a rich apricot shade.

4. When the compote is almost reduced, in a small bowl combine the remaining one-fourth cup orange juice with the cornstarch, whisking to thoroughly combine and form a slurry.

5. Add the slurry into the reduced compote, stirring until the compote thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. This makes about 1 1/2 cups compote. You might not use all of the compote for the remainder of the recipe; to store, cool the compote then cover and refrigerate until needed. The compote will keep for about a week, refrigerated. Gently warm in a saucepan before serving.

French toast and assembly

About 2 loaves white sandwich bread (you will need 36 slices, enough for 18 sandwiches)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 ounces) mascarpone cheese

6 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Canola oil for frying

Orange compote, warmed

1. Cut the bread: Use a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut through the center of each slice to form a round. Spread 1 tablespoon mascarpone over each of half of the rounds, then cover with a remaining round of bread. Repeat, forming 18 sandwiches.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon and sugar to form a batter.

3. Heat a large flat skillet over medium heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil to the pan (enough to form a thin film), heating until the oil is hot.

4. Dunk a sandwich quickly into the batter, coating on all sides. Place the sandwich in the skillet and fry until golden and crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side.

5. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches until all are fried, holding the fried sandwiches in a warm place.

6. To serve, place 2 or 3 warm sandwiches on each plate, topping with a spoonful of compote. Serve immediately.

Each of 9 servings: 538 calories; 13 grams protein; 54 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 31 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 212 mg. cholesterol; 29 grams sugar; 425 mg. sodium.

1892 EAST'S CRISPY FRENCH TOAST

45 minutes. Serves 4

Apple topping

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup light brown sugar

Salt

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and a pinch of salt over low heat. Cook, stirring until the apples are tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. While the apples are cooking, combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the cornstarch mixture to the apples and increase the heat to high, stirring until the liquid bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and hold in a warm place.