Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baked Challah french toast

There are pros and cons to shopping at bulk retailers like Sam's Club or BJ's. The best part is that you can often save money in the long run. The worst part if you are like me and you buy actual fresh food from BJ's, you have to use that food before it goes bad, or you'll have wasted all the money. I usually shop for nonperishables at these retailers, but sometimes the deals are so good (or the food looks so good) that I grab that 24 pack of Italian sausage or indulge myself with two giant loaves of golden Challah bread. I've stretched that sausage from a cookout with the fiance's coworkers, to a sausage, cabbage, carrot and potato soup, to sausage and cabbage pot stickers. I've even added a few chunks to an omelet and some more to a rendition of the Spicy sausage and rice recipe I posted in February.
The Challah has done little except sit on the sidelines as a slice of toast or half a grilled cheese sandwich to accompany the soup. But no more. I decided to honor the slightly sweet and soft bread by making it into french toast.
I love french toast. But, by the time it takes to grill all the slices (grilling them two at a time in my not-so-giant pan) seems to take forever. By the time I'm done I'm usually hot, hungry and at least one of my pieces has gone cold. This recipe is the best solution to that.

Baked Challah French Toast
Adapted from a recipe by My Italian Grandmother

1 loaf Challah bread
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 cups milk (I used soy)
3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
  1. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Cut up Challah into 1 inch cubes. Place into pan. You will have to squeeze the bread together to get it to lay in a single layer. Sprinkle cranberries on top and press them into between the bread cubes.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and milk until combined. Mix in the sugar and spices until the mixture is frothy and well combined. Pour over the Challah. Press the bread down and make sure the milk is soaking all the bread. Cover and put in the fridge at least four hours or over night.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add syrup, brown sugar and walnuts. Mix to combine.
  4. Pour mixture over the bread. Spread evenly. Bake in the oven for about an hour. Bread is done when a tooth pick comes out mostly clean. Baked french toast is closer to bread pudding. If you want to the mixture more done in the middle, cook longer but know that the outside will eventually burn.
  5. Serve warm, covered with more syrup.

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