I have very fond memories of French toast. When I was in elementary school my mom worked early in the mornings so my Grandma would come over to watch me and my brother before we went to school. She would make us breakfast and make sure we got on the bus. Many times she would make us French toast. She made the best French toast! My brother and I loved it. We loved it so much in fact that when we were old enough to stay at home by ourselves in the mornings we would still call our Grandma and ask her to come over and make French toast for us.
Awhile back I hosted a brunch bridal shower for my best friend. I had to choose my recipes carefully because I was hosting the shower at her mother’s house (my house being on the far side of the city away from everyone she had invited). I wanted to make everything in advance and only have to slide a couple of casseroles into the oven when I got there. Egg casserole recipes are plentiful and I have a great one that I make quite often. I also wanted something sweet to complement the saltiness of the cheese and sausage in the egg casserole. I found Baked French toast.
Baked French toast turned out to be perfect for the shower. It is assembled the night before and then in the morning all you have to do is make the topping and pop it in the oven. It was such a hit at the shower that I made it again on Christmas morning.
This is Paula Deen’s recipe. Click here to view it in its original location on the web.
Baked French Toast Casserole
1 loaf French bread (13-16 oz)
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch thick. Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 x 13 pan. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make Praline Topping:
½ pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well.
Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread in the 9 x 13 pan and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.
Here’s my take on it: First thing is that when you are shopping for ingredients, make sure you get French bread from the bakery and not from the bread aisle. The bakery French bread will be a little tougher and have more of a crust while the bread aisle French bread can be a little too soft and is too flimsy when you dump the egg mixture on top of it. I’ve made this recipe with both and thought the bakery French bread worked much better (plus it was significantly cheaper).
Then I had trouble arranging the bread slices in the pan. I tried to lean them up against each other in two neat rows and that just would not work. The bread would not fit. So the first time I made this recipe I laid one layer of bread flat in the pan (cut slices in half to cover the entire bottom of the pan) and then laid a second layer of bread on top of that. When you are ready to serve just cut it into squares like a casserole.
I also found that the Praline Topping was just too rich for my tastes. The first time I made this recipe I actually only made a half recipe of the Praline Topping because I only had one stick of butter left. I spread it out a little more thinly on top of the casserole and it worked out just great. Everyone raved about how good it was. When I made this the second time I did have all the ingredients for a full recipe of Praline Topping so I went for it. Now don’t get me wrong, it tastes really good. It’s just really rich and it actually gave me a bit of a stomach ache. My family agreed with me. I plan to go back to a half recipe the next time I make this.
Finally Paula says to serve this with maple syrup. Well it is so sweet and yum on it’s own that you really don’t need it. I offered it up when I served this at the bridal shower and not one person had any.
So to sum up: use bakery French bread, stack your bread slices on top of each other, use a half recipe of Praline Topping instead of a full, and don’t worry about serving with maple syrup.
So is it worth it? Most definitely. This recipe has found a permanent place in my arsenal. I love that you assemble it the night before so that the next morning all you have to do is pop it in the oven. It’s perfect for a big breakfast or brunch. Because it is very sweet you should balance it out with something a little more salty. When I made this for the bridal shower I also served the egg casserole (post to come because that’s also one of my favorite breakfast recipes), bacon, fruit salad, pumpkin bread and mimosas. Oh and chocolate cupcakes of course – ha. It’s like a muffin just with frosting 🙂