I don’t make brunch often, which is not representative of the way I feel about brunch. I have a long history of loving the shit out of brunch, but nowadays we can’t just saunter down to the dining hall at noon on a sunday to discuss where we may or may not have spent the night and exactly what part of the puking in the bar bathroom we did or did not recall. Life was simpler back then.
Now we have to make brunch ourselves, or go lay down like 20 bones on it at some fancy mimosa-serving type place. But mostly I prefer to make it myself. I know my Sunday mornings are not usually particularly productive. I’m not exactly up with the first light of day. So, when our apartment hosted a Holiday Brunch last weekend, we tried to do as much as we could the night before so that the morning of wasn’t a crazy hurricane of eggs and pancakes and whatnot. I can see this being a good tactic for Christmas, or the day after, or some other lazy day you want to wake up and be decadent without getting your early morning hands dirty.
Well the bad news is that the morning was still a crazed hurricane of stress, somehow, but we’re not entirely sure how. I spilled some stuff and broke a plant and guests came on time and coffee was being hurriedly brewed, so I think that had something to do with it. The good news is that these 2 baked french toast recipes were totally baller. Minimal prepwork the night before and and an easy shove into the oven the morning of. They baked up crisp and caramely on top, delightfully mushy inside, and were even better the next day, cold.
I much preferred using challah to brioche, but it also might’ve just been that I liked the NY Times recipe (which is not the one pictured) better than the other one. The little bit of almond extract is downright genius. These pictures are pretty much the worst, but I was way too busy eating everything that came into my line of sight and drinking about 8 glasses of hot apple cider to take photos.
Most of the time they’re pretty lousy anyway, and furthermore, some other excuse!! Oh shit I have a turkey in the oven and the basting timer just went off. Sorry guys, gotta run to take care of some of this meat juice. Ah, if I had a nickel for every time I said that…
Morning Bread Pudding
from the New York Times
Time: 1 hour plus overnight resting
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
12 to 15 slices brioche or challah bread (all should be about 1/2-inch thick and about 3 inches round; cut accordingly)
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
About 3/4 cup fromage frais or fromage blanc, for serving.
1. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar and butter. Place over medium low heat. The butter will melt and the sugar will dissolve; it will boil for a few minutes, then begin to brown. Adjust heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon so that it browns evenly. When it reaches a dark brown, remove from heat and pour into the base of a 9-inch ceramic or Pyrex pie dish. Swirl the caramel around the base and 1 inch up the sides of the dish. Place dish in refrigerator and chill until caramel is cold.
2. After chilling, place heel of bread in center of dish (or two slices stacked on top of each other). Then arrange slices, standing them against one another, around center. They should fill the pie dish snugly. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and mascarpone cheese, until very smooth. Add milk and almond extract. Pour this over the bread, making sure to saturate all of it. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
3. In the morning, take pie dish out of refrigerator and discard plastic wrap. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake pudding 15 minutes, then sprinkle almonds over pudding. Continue baking until moist but not wet in the center, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and run a knife around edge of dish, loosening bread from sides. Place a serving plate over top of dish (bottom side up), and, using potholders, hold pudding over sink and in a single fluid motion, holding it away from your body, invert plate. Lift off pie dish. Scrape any extra caramel from pie dish over pudding. Serve, cutting it into wedges at the table and spooning a healthy dollop of fromage frais onto each plate.
Yield: 6 servings.
Deep Dish Brioche French Toast
from Leite’s Culinaria
Butter for greasing pan
One 24-ounce brioche loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into 18 cubes
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
4 tablespoons melted butter
Pure maple syrup, warmed
1. Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Place half the bread cubes in a single layer, filling in all the gaps. Evenly scatter the cream cheese cubes, nuts, and raisins on top. Cover completely with the remaining bread cubes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Evenly pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Gently press down on the cubes with your palms to allow the top layer of bread to absorb the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate four hours or overnight.
3. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Meanwhile, remove the dish from the refrigerator and let sit 20 minutes at room temperature. Bake the French toast covered for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the cubes are nicely toasted and there’s no liquid puddling on the bottom. Transfer the dish to a rack and drizzle the melted butter on top. Run a knife around the rim of the pan to release the French toast. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut into squares, arrange on individual plates, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve along with the warmed maple syrup.