Pumpkin French Toast Stuffed with Blackberry-Caramel Mascarpone

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup blackberry puree
2 teaspoons blackberry liqueur (optional: i didn't use it!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

French Toast:
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional: i substituted Maple Flavoring)
8 slices day old challah, sliced 1/2-inch thick
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups mascarpone, at room temperature
1 pint blackberries, halved lengthwise
Confectioners' sugar
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat.
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat and cook, without stirring, until amber brown, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream, blackberry puree and liqueur and cook until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Let come to room temperature.

French Toast:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put a baking sheet in the oven.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt in a large baking dish until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, ground spices, milk, 1/4 cup of the heavy cream, vanilla and rum and whisk until smooth.
Put 4 slices of the bread in the custard mixture and let sit for 2 minutes. Carefully turn over the slices and let sit until the bread is completely soaked through, about 2 more minutes.

While the bread is soaking, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to sizzle. Cook the 4 slices of the bread until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over and continue cooking until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Remove to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Wipe out the pan with paper towels and repeat the process with the butter, oil and remaining 4 pieces of bread.

Combine the mascarpone and remaining 1/4 cup of heavy cream in a bowl and using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat until fluffy and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and fold in a few tablespoons of the blackberry-caramel sauce. Put the sauce into a small saucepan over low heat and heat or put it in the microwave for a minute or so to just warm through.

Remove the French toast from the oven and arrange them on a serving platter. Top 4 slices of the toast with a large dollop of the blackberry-caramel mascarpone and some of the blackberries. Cover with the remaining 4 pieces of toast and drizzle each with some of the warm blackberry caramel sauce. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, garnish with fresh mint sprig and serve.

**Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay