Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baked French Toast

Due to a happy set of circumstances this year, we were lucky enough to spend many of our weekends with friends. When our lives get really busy, it's easy to forget how comforting and rejuvenating it is to share long, leisurely meals with good friends; I especially love breakfasts, with everyone in cozy pajamas and robes, rumpled hair (sometimes sticking out at all angles, or in my case, long and tangled), steaming mugs of coffee and tea warming cold hands, and a satisfying meal to start the day.

When we have house guests, I like to minimize the amount of energy-intensive breakfast cooking we do in the mornings by relying on dishes that can be assembled the night before: sweet bread puddings, savoury stratas, and conventional recipes that have been tweaked to make sleepy mornings just a bit less hectic. If you've got house guests this holiday season, it's a great time to fall back on something this simple for breakfast.

One dish that has been particularly successful in our house is a recipe for Baked French Toast that I found in The Gourmet Cookbook. We love to make it with challah or brioche, and since both types of bread come most often in large, thick loaves, I increase the amount of custard by at least 50% to ensure that there is enough liquid to moisten every slice of bread. I especially love it when a few edges get a bit toasted and caramelized!

Like its pan-cooked sibling, baked french toast is fabulous served with just about anything: maple syrup, fresh berries, sugar and lemon juice, Nutella, or any kind of jam (I highly recommend Damson Plum and Sweet Crabapple Preserves). A heaping platter of bacon served alongside never hurts, either.

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