French toast and me go way back. Like way back. My earliest memories of us (me and french toast) are when my dad would make it for me and my brother when we were little – he made it with Pepperidge Farm white bread and we ate it smeared with margarine and Aunt Jemima syrup. And I LOVED it.This baked french toast is just a tad (ahem) different than the one I grew up with. First, it is made with Challah (sorry Pepperidge Farm), which is the eggiest, most pillowy and perfect bread for french toast. It is baked (which makes it seem like bread pudding – which I ADORE and which it really just IS . . . ) and so it is a night before kind of food event which in my mind is always the best (I love making things ahead of time – has something to do with how uncomfortable I am with spontaneity . . . ). And, finally, it is baked up with an easy apple compote that takes it completely over the top.Oh, and it is gorgeous and tastes great at room temp and doesn’t even require any additional sweetness in the form of syrup, due to the compote, but a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, on the other hand, is all that and then some.
Overnight Baked French Toast with Apple Compote
For the apple compote:
- 4 apples I lie to use a combination of Granny Smith and Macintosh
- 4 tbsps unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
For the French Toast
- 1 – 1 1/4 lb Challah bread or Brioche
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Instructions to make the compote:
- Peel and core the apples and dice them into 1-inch pieces. No need to be fussy with this, as the apples will break down once cooked.
- Melt the butter and sugar together over medium-to-medium high heat, until the butter melts and the mixture bubbles. Add the apples and cook for15 to 20 minutes, until the apples are soft, caramelized, and jammy. Off the heat, add the cinnamon. Set aside to cool slightly, or place in the fridge for up to three days.
To assemble the French toast:
- Grease a 13x9x2-inch pan with cook-ing spray or softened butter and set aside.
- Slice the Challah into 1-inch slices and cut those slices in half. Arrange attractively in your prepared pan, layering the bread in three long rows(beginning and ending at the short sides of the pan).
- Combine the eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and whisk. Add the sugar and cinnamon and whisk again. Add the milk and cream and whisk a final time. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing the bread down with your fingers, if necessary, to make sure all pieces are submerged.
- Using your fingers, or a small knife, evenly distribute the compote between the slices of bread, leaving dollops of it poking out over the entire surface.Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 350-degrees, sprinkle the Turbinado sugar generously over the French toast (this adds a bit of sparkle and a delightful crunch) and bake for 60 minutes, checking after 50. The bread should be golden brown and the custard fully absorbed and “cooked.”I like to stick a small paring knife into the center of the toast and when the blade comes out more cake-y, than wet, the French toast is done.
- If it’s breakfast time, serve immediately with confectioner’s sugar lightly dusted on top. And if it’s not, then, with vanilla ice cream and/or lightly sweetened whipped cream – and, in this instance, sharing is okay (and probably even required).