Chocolate French Toast

Source: Abigail Johnson Dodge (Fine Cooking Magazine, December 2005)
adapted by http://theresalwaysthyme.blogspot.com

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ounce (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6-8 1-inch-thick slices of challah bread (stale is fine)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)
Fresh raspberries, strawberries, or sliced bananas, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well blended and no cocoa lumps remain. Pour in about half of the milk and whisk until the mixture is a lump-free paste. Add the remaining milk, the eggs, and the vanilla. Whisk until well blended.

Arrange the bread in a single layer in a 9x13-inch baking dish (or similar vessel) and pour the cocoa mixture over the bread. Turn the bread once to get both sides nicely coated. Poke each bread slice repeatedly with the tines of a fork to encourage the bread to absorb the batter. Let soak, turning every 10 minutes, until the bread is well saturated, 20 to 30 minutes.

Set a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the butter and spread to cover the pan. (If using a skillet, you'll need to cook the French toast in two batches, using 2 tablespoons butter for each batch.) Using your fingers and a large rubber spatula, carefully transfer the bread slices, one at a time, from the batter to the griddle. Cook until the underside looks browned and lightly crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (Reduce the temperature if the slices are browning too fast) Flip and continue cooking until the slices are slightly puffed in the
center and are bouncy to the touch, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the French toast to plates and serve immediately, dusted with confectioners' sugar and fruit, if you like.