I was in Peru this year for Mother's day and had the best of intentions to get this post out while abroad and, well, that didn't happen. For this I apologize. BUT… this recipe is good, so good I must share it with you almost a week late. And I'll be sharing some recipes inspired by Peru too... I just need time to play in the kitchen, so get excited!
Every year for Mothers Day we make my mom the same brunch. About 18 years ago I stumbled upon a cookbook in my mom's collection. I was searching for a special recipe I could make my mom for breakfast. It just so happens that on the cover of the Pampered Chef book she had, a Mother's day recipe was featured (I was so original and creative back then). Baked apple french toast sounded right up my mom's alley - she loves french things.
So I set out and got all the groceries, sides, fruits, etc… and planned my Mother's day breakfast in bed. I got the recipe all ready and in the oven. I started making my bacon (extra crispy), cutting my fresh fruit, fresh pot of coffee brewing, and assembled a beautiful tray to present my mom with. The recipe said bake 35 minutes so when I pulled it out and it looked soft and jiggly, I freaked out. 5 more minutes I thought, then it will be ready. This continued every 5 minutes for about 30 more minutes. My mom was getting ancy and kept asking me if I needed help. "NO, I'm fine". 20 minutes later, I finally I burst into tears upstairs and told my mom I wasn't sure why the dish wouldn't cook and will she PLEASE come help me.
As most mother's do, she gently calmed me down and lovingly went to check out the problem. "It looks done to me" she replied. "Really?! but it's not golden and brown". She then explained to me the difference of baked french toast and griddled french toast. I was so relieved. To this day I don't know how I managed not to completely burn the dish considering I cooked it 25 minutes too long. Needless to say, this is a very forgiving recipe.
It's soft and chewy with slightly firm, caramelized apple bits on top. It's got a hint of cinnamon but not so much that the apples don't shine on their own. The custard softens up the bread but the crust gives you a bit of slightly crunchy chew. It's a simple and tasty brunch food.
It's become sort of a tradition in our house to make this dish every year. It's funny too, because as an adult, I realize my mom isn't a big breakfast person. She likes to eat HOURS after she wakes up. In fact, she prefers to eat about 1½ pots of coffee in. And I'm the same way (minus the coffee - i do tea). But as a child, to me, being woken up with breakfast in bed seemed like the ultimate way to be pampered. So that was my mission.
Thanks ma for being an understanding, loving, compassionate, hardworking, dedicated and the most bad ass role model a girl could ask for. I don't know what I would do without you. I love you.
baked apple french toast
adapted from the pampered chef cook book
yields 12 servings
1 large loaf of french bread
3 c. milk
¾ c. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
4 granny smith apples
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. butter
Preheat oven to 400º F. Spray a 9x13" glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (or butter it). Cut your bread into 1½" slices and layer in your baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl, combine your eggs, milk, and ¼ c. sugar and mix. Set aside. Peel, core and slice your apples. I like mine on the thinner side but go as thick or thin as you like. An apple slicer peeler corer is VERY helpful, but not necessary. If you don't have one, just do it the old fashioned way with a knife.
Place the sliced apples over the bread and gently pour the egg mixture on top. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ c. sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle on top of the apples and finish with a dot of butter on each slice. Bake for 40-45 minutes until egg mixture is absorbed and firmed up, and the apples have browned a bit.
I use the apple peels to garnish (just set in a bowl with water and a little lemon juice to prevent it from browning). You could also top with fresh berries. I like mine plain but some good ole maple syrup or caramel sauce would be great with these too.
this recipe can be made mostly in advance. if you pre-slice your bread and keep your egg mixture separate, you can assemble the dish in the morning - only having to slice apples day-of. You can cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller dish.
don't have granny smith apples? you could use gala or any baking apple. golden delicious or red apples will be too grainy/soft for the dish but anything else will probably work.
you can use any kind of bread you prefer. if it's thinner pre-sliced bread consider using less of the egg mixture. challah, whole wheat baguette, or brioche would be fantastic. also, a day or two old is better because it will absorb more of the liquid without turning to mush.
i'm not a big cinnamon fan so i used half in this recipe. if you love it, add more. a touch of nutmeg or allspice would be a nice addition. perhaps a little lemon zest would be nice too.
add as much or as little sugar as you like. i'm not a big fan of overly sweet breakfast so i keep it to a minimum.