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Friday, July 8, 2016

happy food: baked french toast

Last week, some good friends from Massachusetts came to visit us in Seattle.  It was an unusually perfectly sunny week of exploring in Washington with two of my favorite people but some of my best memories of the week were when we were home, just drinking cocktails on the deck or laughing and talking in the kitchen cooking and enjoying meals together.

On one early, beautiful morning, just as the sun was coming up, it was just the dog and I in the kitchen. It was that quiet time before everyone padded downstairs for coffee and breakfast. I was trying to decide what to make for breakfast. Recently, I had spent an afternoon dog-earring recipes to try in Chrissy Teigen's book "Cravings," including her French Toast Casserole with Salted Frosted Flakes. I didn't have all of the ingredients in the pantry but I used this recipe as a springboard. It's an easy recipe that works when you have a crowd of people to feed and you don't want to be standing over a stove. As we talked and drank coffee, I prepared the breakfast. Soon, the house was filled with the cozy scent of baking french toast. It was the start of another perfect day together.

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Baked French Toast
A french toast casserole that's easily adaptable (inspired by Chrissy Teigen's French Toast Casserole)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large Challah or French bread cut in 2 inch cubes
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • optional: 2 cups fruit (i.e. sliced peaches, cheery pie filling)
  • optional:1/4 cup toasted coconut bits
Preheat oven to 350.Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish and arrange the cubed bread in the dish. It's OK to fit the cubes in tightly. In a bowl, whisk eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour wet ingredients over the cubed bread, being sure to soak all of the bread. Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press the bread down to ensure the liquid is being absorbed into the bread. Place in refrigerator until oven is ready. Before placing casserole in oven, add fruit to the top of the french toast. You can use sliced, peeled peaches, blackberries, blueberries or no fruit at all. I used Trader Joe's Cherry Pie Filling, dolloping several tablespoons at a time over the entire casserole. I also added toasted coconut bits for crunch.Place dish in oven uncovered and bake for 1 hour. The casserole will puff up and become golden.Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. If you have leftovers, lucky you. This casserole is just as delicious the next day (or at 2am when a snack attack happens).
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings
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