Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Perfect Brunch Dish: French Toast Casserole

Slice of French Toast Casserole

There is something so delightful about a lazy day brunch, catching up with family or friends while enjoying a delicious meal. My favorite way to put such an event together is by doing as much of the prep work ahead of time. This allows me to actually relax and chat with my company.

Pretty much every country with a strong bread culture has a version of French Toast. It's a great way to use up old bread and turn it into a tasty treat. The French call it Pain Perdu (lost bread). A favorite "quatres heures"(4 o'clock) or "gouter", France's official snack time for kids when I was growing up, was to soak thick slices of old baguette into milk, then dip it in an egg mixture. My older siblings would pan fry it in lots of butter and plate it. We would sprinkle some confectioner sugar on top. The white powder contrasting ever so slightly with the beautiful golden hue of the toast. My mouth would water as I watched eagerly for the sugar shower to end and permission to dig in.

This casserole is perfect for entertaining. It requires to be assembled the night before and comes together really easily.

Slices in Custard

The delicate orange flavor mixed in with the caramelized custard makes this dish a creme brulee-french toast hybrid. People who avoid wheat or gluten will be thrilled to indulge in french toast again by using my recipe forAlmost Challah (omit the sesame seeds).

French Toast Up Close

French Toast Casserole (serves 8)
Use regular store bought challah, egg bread or brioche bread if you are not concerned about gluten or wheat.

3 whole eggs
2/3 cups egg whites
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon agave nectar, or honey
1/4 tsp of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 to 12-- 3/4 inch thick slices of Almost Challah (sesame seeds omitted) or other challah bread. Enough to cover a 13x9 casserole dish.

The night before serving:
In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, egg whites, milk, cream, vanilla extract, orange zest, agave nectar or honey and salt.
In a small pan, melt the brown sugar and butter until smooth. Transfer sugar-butter mixture to a pre-oiled lasagna dish (13 x 9 inches). Arrange the slices of challah over it and cover the surface. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover, weight down with another dish to submerge the bread and refrigerate overnight.

Baked French Toast Casserole

Next Morning:
Preheat oven to 375F and take the casserole out of the fridge.
Remove cover and bake for 40 minutes or until edges come slightly away from dish and the french toast casserole is golden. The top is encrusted with the orange zest and the bottom is surrounded by a delectable caramel custard. You can serve it with either side up. Fresh fruits are a nice addition to this lovely meal.

French Toast Close Up

Enjoy these other related recipes:
Candied Orange Muffins with Rosemary
Eggs with Asian Tomato Salad
Chocolate Almond Raspberry Muffins


Leonor said...

It seems so simple and so tasty!!
An original idea to start the say...


rachel said...

we must be on the same cuisine wavelength! I am having a brunch this sunday and am planning the menu- and was considering dragging out my creme brulee french toast recipe, which is very similar to your posted recipe... Although I'm also thinking giving a new chocolate french toast recipe a whirl.
This past weekend I had some scrumptious blueberry muffins, although yours look like they can give them a run for their money!

ARLENE said...

Make-ahead casseroles are great for entertaining and French toast is a winner. Welcome to Daring Bakers.

Mary Ann said...

That is funny- We had something like this for breakfast yesterday because I had an entire loaf of french bread that was hard as a brick. I mixed up eggs and egg whites, cream, skim milk, and sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon on top. I add thawed raspberries and blueberries and then it sat in the fridge overnight. I want to try this version! It looks great and we love it!

Kevin said...

This French toast casserole sounds so good! It looks great with the blueberries.

Apples and Butter said...

creme brulee AND french toast in one package? Wow. I have to try this.

Tartelette said...

I was surprised to find that our "wasted bread" was called French toast here and eaten on a more regular basis than we ever did. It was popular back in the early 1900s in the rural populations and I guess that because of that fact, it still has a difficult time making it on our plates!! What a pity is so good and your version is scrumptious!

Helene said...

I never do my french toast with the orange flavor. It's probably good. I usually add cinnamon for a good taste.

kittie said...

This is a lovely take on French toast - I usually have mine savoury, with cheese and maybe a dash of hot sauce!!

Alexa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexa said...

I like to make breakfasts fun... It sets the whole day.

Chocolate french toast sounds divine. Hope you are posting it ;-)

Thank you so much!!!

Mary Ann,
Don't you love it when you can used stuff that most people would just throw away and come up with a great meal? Berries sound great with a french toast casserole.

I got a lot o mileage out of those gorgeous blueberries. It was so much fun picking them.

Apples and Butter,
My family loved the creme brulee part. It was a big hit.

So many things here are called "French"... It always reminds me of that movie with John Cusack and the french exchange student. Did I just date myself? (lol)

Cinnamon is great too. I am not sure you can go wrong with flavorings here. It is such a versatile dish.

My friend Marieke was telling me about a savory version a couple days ago. It sounded great. I am going to have to experiment with that.

Jude said...

I'd love to wake up to something like this. Mmm oranges and blueberries

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