Three years ago I went to a bridal shower for my cousin. There was a French toast bake there. It was fantastic. This is not that recipe. It only prompted me to search online for something similar. After looking over a few, I came up with this. While most breakfast bakes call for cream or half and half and lots of butter, this one is lacking those things either entirely or in large amounts. This allows you to eat a second or…third piece.
I also get several requests for this recipe. My mom’s made it, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, sister, numerous friends and relatives. It has made appearances at both Easter and Christmas brunch, snowboarding with a group of friends, showers, hosting a last-minute breakfast for relatives. It definitely gets around.
It’s also a relatively cheap way to feed a lot of people. If you can utilize a day-old bread markdown, milk, sugar, $.99 cartons of eggs on sale and find the nuts either on sale or wholesale somewhere like Trader Joe’s, this is one way to fill everybody up without spending a ton, and the one recipe feeds 8 adults easily.
Time to make my “loose” french toast bake.
First, get out your day-old bread and cut it into slices. I happened to use two twin French loaves, but you can use whatever you have around. I’ve used old hot dog buns we had laying around before mixed with a hamburger bun or two. Then tile your slices in the pan. I’m using this pan because I brought this particular bake on a five-hour car ride to serve for breakfast while on vacation with some of our friends.
Then I like to fill in some of the gaps with any extra bread I have by ripping it up into smaller pieces and squishing it down into the gaps and holes. Then I let it sit out and get crusty for a while, an hour, two hours. Whenever. I don’t know if this actually helps with the soaking up of the milk and eggs, but I do it.
There isn’t much to complain and argue about in this: eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon. There you have it.
Measure out your milk, and then proceed to crack eight eggs into a bowl. I actually used nine here because there was a lonely egg left in the carton. I wanted him to be included in the party. Beat together.
Add a scoop or two of sugar, vanilla and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and keep on mixing. Then stop mixing.
Start pouring. Try to pour it all over the top so all the bread gets wet and starts soaking up all the milky, eggy mix.
At this point I sometimes squish down the bread with my hands if there are some areas that aren’t fully covered and soaking.
See how all the cinnamon spreads out and sticks to the bread and all the bread looks wet? That’s what you’re looking for.
Now it’s time to pack up the topping ingredients. I stick them all together and just leave them to come along for the ride. I’ll worry about mixing them when it’s time to bake the dish. You do not want to top the dish until you’re ready to cook anyway. I leave these in a container out on the counter so the butter is soft and easy to mix, and then cover your bake and stick it in the fridge for the night.
When it’s early in the morning, turn the oven on to 350º and get your topping ready. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter together. It will be creamy, not crumbly.
Before I add the pecans to the topping, I’m going to spread some on the first row of the bread in case there are any aversions to nuts. I know we’re good on allergies, but I’ll leave it just in case. I wouldn’t want anyone to go out on the hill with an empty stomach because they were afraid of a nut.
Now it’s time to mix in the pecans. Glorious pecans. Use as many or as few as you like, really. This is about a cup. It works better if they’re chopped. The whole ones tend to fall off as it bakes, and then you have to scrape pecans off the bottom of your oven.
Spread until all of the topping covers the pan evenly.
Bake at 350º for 50 minutes until the center of the bake is springy. I usually put a cookie sheet under mine to catch anything that may fall over if I have a particularly full pan. This one has high walls, but my glass Pyrex always gets the cookie sheet.
Let the bake site for 10 minutes before cutting into it. Then stick it out there on the counter for all your friends, your family, your second cousin once removed, Mark, and your brother’s wife’s cousin, Fred, or whoever you are feeding to enjoy.
And bring a pocket full of recipe cards. Trust me. It’s easier than having them all call and email you demanding that you share it.