This French toast with lemon ricotta and blackberry compote is one of those breakfast dishes that look and sound way more difficult and time-consuming than they actually are. I mean, it's impressively delicious—fresh yet rich, bright, sweet, and eggy—but it's really not all that hard to make. If you've got enough time to make a proper batch of French toast, then you've got enough time to throw in a pair of toppings that will take that French toast from Tuesday-morning staple to weekend blowout.
To begin, whip up a batch of French toast custard. I based my recipe on Daniel's Perfect Quick-and-Easy French Toast, replacing his nutmeg with a touch of cardamom, which I think pairs really nicely with lemon and blackberry. While the bread is soaking in the custard mixture, I get my toppings ready.
The ricotta is as simple as it gets: Just stir some lemon zest into high-quality ricotta. Depending on the exact brand and batch of ricotta, you might need to stir in just a few drops of milk in order to loosen it up to a creamy consistency, so it flows slowly over the French toast when you lay down a nice big dollop.
You can make your own ricotta, if you have five minutes and a microwave, or you can use store-bought. If you go with store-bought, just make sure it's a brand with no gums or stabilizers in it. Those stabilizers are designed to keep the ricotta's excess moisture from weeping out, so you wind up with bland ricotta that's simultaneously gritty and wet. Stick with brands that contain nothing but milk, enzymes, and either a starter culture or an acid like vinegar.
The berry compote is almost as easy: Cook whole blackberries on the stovetop with a bit of sugar and water, mashing them with a potato masher or whisk and simmering them down to a syrupy consistency. A little lemon juice and zest at the end brightens the blackberries right up.
Once the toppings are complete, I cook the French toast and put it all together.
You could serve everything separately on the dining room or kitchen table, but if you want to go full-out fancy, plate it all individually, spooning the ricotta onto overlapping shingles of French toast, then spooning the blackberry compote on top of the ricotta, then finishing it off with some more grated lemon zest.
Serve it up, and remember: It's okay if your guests think you put a lot more effort into this than you did.