Friday, September 10, 2010

Family Brunch

I love brunch.  It is the most brilliant meal to enjoy on (especially a hungover) Sunday.  My parents stayed the night with us last weekend and we invited my in-laws over to get together for a family brunch.  Since I am just venturing into the world of cooking, I decided I'd like to throw something together for everyone.  I wanted to do something fairly easy...something I could do in advance so that I could just enjoy spending time with our family and sip mimosas.  This was the perfect thing!  I can't say enough great things about this simple and delicious recipe.  It was a total hit and even my very picky father in law ate his portion (and a little more) right up and complimented my dish.

I got the basic recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I used the Boozy Baked French Toast recipe - minus the booze.  We didn't have any of the recommended liquors in the house and so I went with vanilla extract.  Honestly, there are so many ways you can doctor this up.  You can use the liquor of your choice for flavoring, or vanilla extract, or fruit, or nuts, orange zest, or some combination of any of those.  Or something I haven't even thought of.  I plan to make this recipe again and was so easy and so delicious!

To be can also use any type of bread for this recipe, but I highly recommend using Challah bread.  It just makes the best French toast ever, basically.  We only had 1 1/2 cups of whole milk in the house, so I ended up using 1 1/2 cups of soy milk as a substitute and it was still delicious!

We served this with mimosas, broccolini and onion frittata, bacon (of course!), and a fruit salad that my mother in law brought over.  It was a delicious brunch and so easy!  J would happily eat breakfast for dinner any night of the week, so I foresee myself whipping this up many times in the future.  You could even edit the recipe and make it savory if you are so inclined.

Baked French Toast
1 loaf supermarket Challah bread in 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices
3 cups whole milk
3 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

If you like your French toast boozy...(use instead of the vanilla extract)
3 tablespoons Bailey’s and 3 tablespoons Cointreau (original Smitten Kitchen recipe)
Frangelico (hazelnut)
Chambord (raspberry)
Creme de Cassis (black currant)
Grand Marnier (orange)

1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with salted or unsalted butter.  Since we made 75 stuffed shells in all of our nice baking dishes, I just used a big throwaway aluminum pan.  It worked just fine!
2. Arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan. You'll need to cut/rip a piece or two into smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.  If you are using any fillings of fruit and/or nuts, this is the time to put them between the layers and/or sprinkled on top.
3. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt and booze or flavorings of your choice and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Since J is a chef and all of our spices are jumbo-size, I got cinnamon ALL over the top layer.  Like, way too much.  I feel like this actually ended in my favor.  I spread it as evenly as possible, then I flipped the top layer of Challah over so that my cinnamon mistake would be hidden.  Then I sprinkled just a tiny bit of cinnamon and sugar over the top once again to make it pretty...but this way you get a great cinnamon taste in between the layers.
4. The original recipe doesn't mention this, but I gave all of the bread a gentle push/smash so that it would soak up all of the yummy liquid at the bottom of the pan. 
5. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The bread will absorb all of the milk custard while you sleep.
6. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. This will take longer if you have additional layers.
7. Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or all of the above.
Serves 6 as main course...but we had enough leftovers for J and I to have it again the next day and it was equally as delicious.

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