We were looking for an easy, but tasty, dish to make for breakfast. Ideally, we should be able to do most of the work the night before, so there is only a bit to do the next morning when everyone is still sleepy-eyed. The most obvious choice was the Pain Perdu Casserole or Baked French Toast.
Since we hadn’t previously made Baked French Toast, we consulted our cookbooks, but didn’t see anything right off hand, so we did a search using Google. Lo and behold, there are about 14,700,000 pages that come up. That’s roughly one page for every 20 people in the United States. Or one page for every 500 people in the world. Think about that. Could it be correct that one of every 500 persons in the world is busy making Baked French Toast and sharing the results on the Internet? Hmm. Of course, after this is posted, there will be 14,700,001 pages on Baked French Toast.
With so many recipes, we better get scratchin’. This is based on one we found at allrecipes.com, but we think our changes are for the better.
Serves 4 to 6 (really, this is rich)
The literal translation of Pain Perdu is Lost Bread, and it’s intended as a way of using leftover bread, or bread that’s lost to other uses. Use what you have. Eggs: get those free-rangers, and, of course, use only real vanilla extract and maple syrup. We’ll know if you skimp on either of these ingredients. so just don’t.
Procedure in detail:
Butter and bread pan. Butter an 8×8-inch baking pan and layer in the slices of bread. It’s okay of you have to make more than one layer. Feel free to tear some of the bread into pieces and stuff into any gaps between the pieces of bread. It’s your masterpiece, so go for it.
Make custard. In a medium bowl, or a large measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and a bit of nutmeg. Basically, we’re making a custard that will go on top of the bread; if you make bread pudding, you’ll notice the resemblance.
Pour over bread and refrigerate. Pour the custard over the bread, making sure that all the bread gets doused with custard. Cover and refrigerate until morning.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wake up, sleepy head! We’re going to be working with some boiling liquids in a minute, so we need you mostly awake.
Make sauce. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and bring the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup to a low boil, stirring constantly. It should take about 10 minutes.
Coat casserole. Pour the sauce over the French toast casserole, trying to get all the bread evenly coated. Top with pecans.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until browned on the top and set in the middle. The casserole should also be bubbly in spots.
Serve. Cut into pieces and serve with a large spoon or spatula.
This casserole is rich. Possibly with a capital ‘R’. So, believe us when we say this is the appropriate amount for four people, or maybe even six. We’re pretty sure that everyone will rave about it. The custard sets up just perfectly, making the bread nice and tender, and some of the sugar sauce crisps up in spots so you have a few places with a little crunch. Having said that, though, next time we’d change it just a bit more. First, we would cube the bread to make it easier to serve; that would also help eliminate some of the eggy pockets that form — sweetened eggs by themselves are not good. Second, we would boost the amount of cinnamon, probably double it, or even triple it. Thirdly, we’d cut in half the amounts of maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter, because the dish was quite a bit sweeter than either of us really liked. Alternately, we would not bother with the syrup/sugar/butter sauce at all, and would simply drizzle the top of the casserole with maple syrup. Finally, the toasted pecans really stood out; the amount of those used could be increased, too. So, with those things in mind, three stars.