Monday, November 11, 2013

Overnight French Toast

One of the best things you can do is plan ahead for breakfast.  There are few things more enjoyable than waking up in the morning and thinking "I've already got breakfast covered." And we're not talking cereal here.

Case in point: Saturday night. We had a friend staying with us and I decided, late Saturday night, to would whip up some Overnight French Toast.

My mother has an Overnight French Toast recipe that she made for years on Christmas Eve so we'd have an easy but special breakfast Christmas Morning. This recipe is a variation on that, incorporating a few ingredients I found in other recipes and what I happen to have on hand. As with all recipes, feel free to experiment, add in what you like and take out what you don't.

Ingredients:

  • Half of a loaf of bread (about 8 slices).  I like to use cinnamon bread if I have some on hand, but white bread or challah bread work great. 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter (1/2 stick of butter)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup (brown sugar can be used as a substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup - please please please use real maple syrup and not that "pancake syrup" high fructose corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring stuff
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Coconut Oil or butter for greasing pan
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries or other berries, optional

I found the best pan for this is 8 or 9 inch square cake or brownie pan like this one.   This is perfect for 3-4 people, especially if you're making a side of bacon.  If you're feeding a larger crowd, you might want to use one of those larger disposable half-size steam table foil things and double the recipe.  (It's hard to clean, so despite my reduce-reuse-recycle tendencies, this might be a good occasion for the disposable pan.)

Grease the pan well.  I used coconut oil and rubbed it all around, including the sides, but you could use butter or oil.  In my opinion, coconut oil or butter are a little better than oil here because they enhance the flavor beautifully.

In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 stick of butter. As it melts, add in 1/2 cup of agave syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir and heat until butter is melted, then remove from heat.

Pour about 1/3 of the butter mixture on the bottom of the cake pan, doing your best to coat the bottom of the pan. Top it with a layer of bread, making an effort to make an even layer of bread, even if that means you have to rip the bread up into smaller pieces.

Add cream cheese over the the layer of bread. I don't make any effort to spread the cream cheese, I just put little pats of cream cheese spaced evenly in a layer.  They'll melt and ooze in there a little. Add another drizzle (about 1/2 of the remaining) of the butter.  Then add another layer of bread.  I try to make an effort to lay my bread in the opposite direction so I don't have "seams" without bread in the gaps.  Top with the rest of the butter mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat 4 eggs, 1/3 cup milk, a pinch of salt and maple syrup.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread, being careful to moisten all the bread with the egg mixture as much as possible (try to avoid leaving dry areas).  Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover pan and bake 45 minutes.  If you would like, throw some berries or banana slices on the top before baking.  Some other ideas are to incorporate nuts or raisins, but that's really not my style.

The french toast is pretty perfect the way it is, but feel free to top with additional butter or warm maple syrup before serving if you're into that kind of thing. Brew some coffee, fry some bacon, and enjoy the benefits of being a pre-planner!

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