Friday, July 29, 2011

A Craving is a Craving

I have an absolute fixation on Saturday breakfast.  Even though I happily eat the same breakfast the other six days of the week (4 ounces of whole-milk Greek yogurt with homemade granola and fresh or dried fruit), on that glorious weekend morning, I must have something different, something cooked, something indulgent even.  Like sausage gravy and biscuits when my father-in-law's spicy sausage is in house; waffles of one kind or another with bacon; or French toast with sour cream or yogurt and jam, a fabulous idea I picked up over at Poor Girl Gourmet.  The two toppings on that last one aggrandize quickie egg-dipped loaf-bread slices in a surprisingly good way. We've come back to that treat a few times over now.  

Recently, however, I got the hankering to try French toast in a new easy and good way--the overnight way.   I had tried the idea many years ago from a recipe that I guiltily tore out of a doctor's exam room magazine. (Isn't that like stealing? I don't normally do such things!)  I probably absconded with it because the recipe had a French name, trou pain perdu, which literally means lost bread found, referring to the transformation of day old bread into a fresh new meal.  It apparently wasn't a hit with me way back when, but tastes change. (They really do. I eat condiments on my burgers now and love vegetables!) It was worth another try.

I'm glad I made that decision.  After soaking up a lightly sweetened egg and milk mixture all night, thick slices of rustic bread become almost pastry like in flavor, with a center texture like pudding cake and edges that are browned and crusty. It's creme anglaise rich without being overly sweet. In a word, dee-lish.  And the only work required in the morning is sticking the pan in the oven!

This method is also a great way to have all the French toast ready at the same time--no holding in the oven, no tending of multiple skillets--so it would be great for a crowd.

It might also be better for cooler times than the last week (Or is it two?), when turning the oven on seems like a crazy idea, even with central cooling running.  But a craving is a craving. If it's good enough to defy the heat, it must be a keeper.

For all its charms, this recipe is a basic one. I'm already aware of fancier versions out there--stuffed with jam, lidded with caramel, brightened by citrus, etc.  Someday they may call to me.  But for now, I'm happy to add this one to my personal repertoire.

Overnight French Toast
Adapted from Epicurious

Serves: 4    (I cut it in half for just the two of us.)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 3/4-inch-thick slices rustic bread
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Dash vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Spread butter over bottom of a large heavy baking pan with at least one inch sides.  Arrange bread slices in pan.  Beat eggs, milk, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt to blend in a large bowl.  Pour mixture over bread.  Turn bread slices to coat.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake bread 15 minutes.  Turn bread over and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown.  Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar just because it's so pretty!

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