Saturday, September 22, 2007

Worth A Million In Prizes: Overnight French Toast

Lately there's a frenzy of post ideas in my head! Which almost never happens! Also, work has been very slow. Thus the onslaught of posts and items passing as posts.

I'm not a great cook. I really enjoy cooking as a creative act; as a daily necessity I get all wound up and tense about it (What if it's dreadful? All that effort wasted, when I would have been happy with a quesadilla and a bowl of soup!). When I have the time to spare, I am capable of turning out a few tasty items, and under pressure (ie, sudden guests) I can throw together a nice spread. But I'm not one of those people who think, I'm hungry. Let's see... and bam!, a gorgeous meal appears in thirty minutes and it also happens to be delicious. (Rather fortuitously, H is one of those people, which means that we're never ever at a loss for good food in this house.)

However, this dish makes me feel like I'm one of those enviable souls. It's fantastically easy, absurdly tasty, and nearly brought a tableful of savvy cooks to their knees when I served it for brunch once.

Notes in brackets are my own.

Overnight French Toast
From Perfect Party Food by Diane Phillips, aka the Diva of Do-Ahead*

• 1 pound bread
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 8 large eggs
• 2 cups heavy cream

• Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and put in a large bowl (you will have about 9 cups of bread)
• In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon
• In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, and ¾ cup of the cinnamon sugar, then pour over the bread, stirring until coated
• At this point, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, or [come on, who are we fooling?] overnight.
• The next morning [after imbibing your preferred hangover cure], preheat the oven to 350° F. Coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the batter in the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and serve with warm maple syrup [or Mrs. Butterworth, which is must tastier and comes in a cuter bottle.].

A note from the author on bread:
When making bread puddings or French toast, I buy breads with a soft crust and use the entire loaf, crust and all. If I have leftover crusty bread, I remove the crust, then tear the bread apart. Crusty breads absorb all the liquid and are still quite chewy after cooking, which isn’t the texture you want. Croissants, brioches and even leftover doughnuts[**] all work well in French toast batters.

[That said, when I made this last I bought a loaf of Italian bread, sliced it and put it in the oven to dry. It worked fine. Also, I only had about 5 eggs on hand. It worked fine. What I’m saying is, it’s hard to screw this one up.]

* Huh? Really?
** Oh my, really? Because the heavy cream isn’t enough??