I have a number of wonderful breakfast casseroles and many make great use of staples I keep on hand for unexpected weekend guests. The best part, most can be pulled together the night before and popped in an oven before brunch allowing me time to catch up with my company. This recipe is a family favorite and a culmination of several versions of baked French toast.
If you’ve made our Orange-Scented French Toast you know starting with great bread is key for flavor and texture. My preferred bread for French toast or bread pudding is Challah. It’s a luscious egg bread which is now commonly available in most bakery sections of food markets and also available online. Challah bread freezes beautifully so I try to keep at least one loaf in my freezer. If you are in a pinch, you can use French or Italian bread with a soft crust, both are normally found in the bread aisle.
As with any great French toast, the bread is soaked in a rich egg custard base. Currants are added to the custard along with some cinnamon, brown sugar, pure vanilla extract and real maple syrup. Before baking drizzle on some extra decadence with a blend of butter, brown sugar, toasted pecans and a bit more of that real maple syrup!
And since this weekend marks the arrival of fall, let’s add some warm apples sautéed in a bit of butter, a dash of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg gently sweetened with rich maple syrup.
Pecan Crusted Baked French Toast
For the base:
1 large loaf Challah bread, cut into slices about 1” thick
6 extra large eggs
1-1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cups currants
For the topping:
½ stick butter
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
½ c dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
In a large bowl combine the eggs, half and half, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and currants, whisk together until well blended.
Pour about 1/3 of the egg mixture in the bottom of a 13” x 9” baking dish, which has been lightly coated with a cooking spray. Dip each slice of bread in the egg custard then layer the bread slices in the baking dish. Pour the remaining custard over the bread.
Wrap and refrigerate overnight. About 45 minutes before baking remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. If most of the egg custard has not been absorbed by the bread, spoon the extra back over the top of the bread. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat along with the brown sugar, and maple syrup.
Stir in the toasted pecans.
Spoon the sauce over the bread, spreading the toasted pecans evenly across the top.
Bake at 350-degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until the custard is baked through. If the edges of the bread start to brown too much, cover loosely with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Spiced Sautéed Apples
4 apples, such as Fuji, Braeburn or Granny Smith, peeled, cored and sliced thin
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons real maple syrup
In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple slices and cook until the apples start to soften. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup. Continue cooking until the apples are soft and cooked through.