Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Baked French Toast.

Baked French Toast

One of my favorite things about reading food writing is learning that someone else has experienced the embarrassment, failure, and frustration that often comes with culinary self-indoctrination.

I recently finished reading The Amateur Gourmet by Adam Roberts. In the introduction, he attempts to make a fish en papillote with wax paper. He also forgets the butter in a very expensive coffee cake, and ruins several batches of Nancy Silverton's caramel corn. It was so nice to see that someone else feeds his garbage can on a regular basis.

Perfection seems to be the ideal in cooking and blogging. We'd like to pretend all of our photos and baked goods are perfect. We'd like to appear as though we can manage a career, a family, a budget, a social life, an education, and a culinary schedule that involves cooking multiple times a day, blogging, maintaining a flickr page, participating in on-line events, reading food magazine and news articles, and watching a good dose of food television.

If you can manage all of that, congratulations. No wonder bloggers are dying of heart attacks. Just in the process of writing this post I have ruined a batch of buttercream (this buttercream, in fact).

I am giving you this recipe I made last week for two reasons: it's insanely easy to make, and it takes like it took three times as much effort. Cooking really doesn't have to take a ton of effort, and if you're like me you could use a break. A break that includes a really indulgent, badly photographed breakfast.

Deep Dish Brioche French Toast
adapted from Leite's Culinaria

Butter for greasing the pan
One 24-oz brioche or challah loaf, cut into 1 inch cubes
8 oz cream cheese, cut into 18 cubes (I prefer much smaller cubes)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (or dried cherries, or fresh blueberries, etc.)
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cloves
4 tbsp melted butter

To serve:
Powdered sugar
Pure maple syrup, warmed

1. Generously butter a 9x13 inch baking dish (I used a glass pyrex). Place half the bread cubes in a single layer, filling in all the gaps. Evenly scatter the cream cheese cubes, nuts, and raisins on top. Cover completely with the remaining bread cubes.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Evenly pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Gently press down on the cubes with your palms to allow the top layer of bread to absorb the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate four hours or overnight.

3. Heat the oven to 350F (175C). Meanwhile, remove the dish from the refrigerator and let sit 20 minutes at room temperature. Bake the french toast covered for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 15-20 minutes longer, or until the cubes are nicely toasted and there's no liquid pudding on the bottom. Transfer the dish to a rack and drizzle the melted butter on top. Run a knife around the rim of the pan to release the french toast. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut into squares, arrange on individual plates, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve with the warmed maple syrup.


Aran said...

if this is going to keep me from dying of a heart attack... well heck, I will eat it!! I know I make some fancy smancy stuff sometimes but give me some plain french toast or rice pudding and I will love you for the rest of my life. Gorgeous!
By the way, did you see that I passed an award to you?

Christina said...

Ah, I know of mistakes well. I blogged about my failed panettone in part because in life there will be mistakes, so instead of denying it I acknowledge it and move on. And also because I do find it a bit funny. ^,^

I haven't had baked French toast since I made a blueberry version for Mother's Day a few years ago. It was the first time I made it and it was great! The addition of nuts would provide a great contrast from the smoothness, I'll have to remember that.

Lauren said...

You appear to do a lot of baking. Who cares if some of it goes in the bin! Will you marry me? Or at least send me cookies?

Anonymous said...

Lisa: Thanks for the recipe. IT IS DELICIOUS! I made it this morning. My son and couple of his friends came home from college (4 hours drive home) to take a big 8-hour test (first part of engineering). I wanted to make them breakfast before their test so I prepare everything last night and in the oven at 4:10 a.m. today. I used Challah bread, reduced fat cream cheese, 2% milk, and fresh blueberries. I know why you prefer cutting smaller pieces of cream cheese since the cream cheese doesn't really melt and bigger pieces will give you a big chunk in one bite (I cut the cream cheese into 32 pieces and thinking of cutting more smaller the next time). I also used fresh blueberries which some berries were tart, but with the warm maple syrup, it will be OK (I forgot about the maple syrup, only dusted with confectioners sugar). I also used a Le Crueset baking pan, measuring 9-3/4 inches by 14 inches and the egg-milk mixture did not seem to distriubute enough so I added more milk mixture using 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, 1/4 tesp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, small pinch nutmeg and cloves. That worked perfectly. This recipe is very good! I highly recommend it--not too soggy, not dry--just perfect and delicious! It is 6:22 a.m. now and I am done with my breakfast, dishes are wash, kids are on their way to take their test, and thinking about going back to bed now! Thanks Lisa! I enjoy your website very much and always looking forward to see what you are baking and admire your photographs.

Anonymous said...

It's me again...I forgot to note that I added more baking time to my recipe since I increased the amount of egg-milk mixture since I used a large-size baking pan. My total baking time is 50 minutes instead of 35 to 40 minutes as specified.

Anonymous said...

I had made this French toast twice since my last posting. I really, really LOVE this recipe. I highly recommend this recipe and hope all your readers will try this recipe. The recipe calls for brioche bread, but I used challah bread instead because I want to cut down on the saturated fat. Of course, brioche will taste so much better. I'm unablle to find a whole-wheat challah bread for I'll be using that! Do not substitute any other breads other than brioche or challah breads. Of all the overnight baked French toast recipes I've tried, this is the BEST recipe I came across. Thanks for posting this recipe. :)

Lisa Campbell said...

I'm so glad you've all liked this recipe! I'm making it again on Sunday for brunch. I also prefer challah- brioche is rich enough on its own.