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12.29.2011

French Toast Casserole

Ben Franklin says: "Fish and visitors stink in three days." 


Hmm.  You're kind of a big deal, Ben, but I'm guessing you didn't tolerate the house guest back in your day.  But, I sorta get what you're saying, I do.

With the Christmas holiday just behind us and New Year's festivities just ahead, there's a good chance house guests are expected this weekend, or that a few post-Christmas relatives are still lingering around the house.

You know, the ones who wake up at 11am, pad around all day in their jammies, take a mid-day nap with the cat, and always beat your butt at cards.  Lucky ducks.

No doubt about it, this is the perfect week to hunker down with your guests, be lazy, and enjoy leisurely meals.  These are the perfect days to be still, to be quiet (ish), to reflect, and to think ahead.  This is the ideal occasion for late-morning brunch.

Gosh.  Isn't brunch just the most luxurious of meal-time activities?  I think so. 

My husband and I made this super easy French toast variation for Christmas Day brunch this year, and it was pretty darn delicious.  So much so, that I didn't even manage to take any pictures of it in all its gooey, french toasty glory before it was devoured by hungry relatives.  In their jammies.

A warning: if you share Ben Franklin's attitude towards entertaining guests, do NOT serve up this easy and delectable breakfast casserole if you want yours to hit the road anytime soon.  Huh?  That was a weird sentence.

If time allows, try to assemble this gem of a dish ahead of time, and refrigerate it overnight so that the day-old bread drinks up the orange and cinnamon egg mixture like a sponge.  Even a few hours in the fridge will do, and it will make a big difference. 

Serve each heaping scoop-ful with warm maple pecan syrup, and watch the looks on their faces as they plan their next visit.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

French Toast Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
Yields 8 servings
Ingredients:
2/3 c brown sugar, packed
2 tbs butter
2 tbs corn syrup
2 c low-fat milk
1/2 c egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated orange zest
2 large eggs
8-10 slices thick French bread, preferably day-old
2 tbs chopped pecans
Maple syrup, warmed

Preparation:
Combine the first three ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until bubbly and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. 


Pour the sugar mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (or larger) baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan, working quickly so that the caramel is still spreadable.


Combine milk and the next five ingredients (through eggs) in a large shallow bowl, stirring with a whisk.


Dip 1 bread slice in the milk mixture, and arrange it over the sugar in the baking dish.

These are a real man's hands, ladies.  They put up dry wall.  They make french toast.

Repeat with the remaining bread slices, overlapping them where you can to fill in all empty space.


Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread slices.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to bake, place the dish in the oven (preheated to 350 deg F), and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  While the casserole is baking, heat your maple syrup and add the chopped pecans. 


Drizzle the maple syrup over the french toast, and enjoy!

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