Baked French Toast

Genetics are an amazing thing. A few weeks ago I reconnected with my beautiful cousin Erin and although it had been 15 years since we'd seen each other, it was as though no time had passed at all. We took our collective kids to Farrell's and the 2 of us danced the birthday songs together and generally made mayhem while aforementioned kids looked away in embarrassment.

The amazing thing is how alike we are. This woman was raised in California's Central Valley while I grew up in Los Angeles. She is a middle child, I'm the oldest. She married and started her family before she was 30: I couldn't get that together until I was almost 40. And yet, we talk similarly - not just the tones, but the words we use. We're built similarly with tallish, athletic frames. And then, there were less obvious connections like that we see things the same way and have like values. We're extroverts who married good, solid men who support and ground us. Maybe it's generational (we're 4 months apart), but our similarities seem to run deeper than that. Some things are genetic, after all.

In any case, Erin and her family were coming to San Diego, so, naturally, I had to bake for them. As they were coming the day they planned to make the 6 hour drive home, I wanted to make sure they were fortified, not just fed. Knowing I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could, not cooking or prepping while they sat waiting, I sought out a recipe for something I could prepare beforehand and enjoy with them. Enter Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, and her gorgeous recipe for toasty, cinnamony, pudding-y baked french toast. With some applewood smoked bacon, fresh raspberries and whipped cream, this was hearty, delicious and a sweet treat for our little family reunion.
Before we get into the recipe, let me just say that this one will be making return appearances in our lives, especially around the holidays. I can smell this Christmas morning, or any morning when guests are here and I want a low-maintenance, truly delicious breakfast. (In truth, we ate it as dessert with vanilla ice cream, too. I mean, it is essentially bread pudding!) Next time, I plan to add some blueberries or peaches into the mixture before baking to add my own spin. Or, maybe a cup of pureed pumpkin. Oh, the versions are endless!

If you make this one, let me know how you personalized it. As always, enjoy!



Baked French Toast
Yield 8-10 servings

For the Pudding:
1-20oz. loaf brioche
8 whole eggs
2 C whole milk
1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 T vanilla

For the Topping:
1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 C cold butter, cut into chunks

Whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving

For the Pudding: Grease a 9x13" baking pan with butter and set aside. Cube the bread and drop into the pan.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk in the milk, cream, sugars and vanilla. Pour over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and put into the fridge overnight.

For the topping: Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is pebbly. Store in the fridge until use.

Preheat the oven to 350 and place the pudding on the counter. Sprinkle the topping over and place into the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes. Let cool about 15 minutes and spoon out portions, topping with berries and cream.

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