Since having surgery on my foot, my time in the kitchen has been severely limited. It pretty much hurts to stand still for more than a few minutes, and I can't put much pressure on the foot yet. My left foot is taking a serious hit, what with all the hopping and limping, so standing on one foot to cook complex, multi-step dishes is also not an option. With this in mind, I've had to curtail my everyday zeal about being in the kitchen, and limit my cooking to practical dishes requiring little to no prep.
When at last Saturday's lunch we found ourselves with a whole extra challah, I somehow got tapped to take it home. And people, I think we all know that there are few things better than day-old challah french toast on a lazy Sunday. With that said, soon as I woke up on Sunday morning, I realized that the absolute last thing I wanted to do was hover at the stove, waiting for all those slices to soak and fry up. It just wasn't going to happen.
Enter awesome Deb of Smitten Kitchen, and her recipe for Boozy Baked French Toast. The perfect antidote to both hunger and laziness, baked french toast allows you to enjoy this fantastic weekend breakfast without all the prep work. The result? A cross between french toast and bread pudding; not your usual crunchy-all-around slices of fried french toast, but a lovely casserole with soft, custardy innards and a crisp crust, thanks to cinnamon sugar topping.
Of course, some of us procrastinate more than others; Deb had the foresight to make her casserole overnight, giving the bread time to soak up the milk-egg mixture. I'm simply not that awesome. I woke up Sunday morning wanting French toast casserole, having done absolutely nothing the night before. But hey -- I made it work. I cut the milk by a third, so there would be less liquid floating around. I also dotted the top layer with butter, to ensure that the cinnamon sugar would get crispity-crisp. My last-minute game plan totally payed off. About 40 minutes after french toast casserole entered my head, it entered my mouth. Oh-so-tasty. Maybe I'm awesome after all.
Lazy Boozy French Toast Casserole adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 loaf Challah bread in 1-inch slices, any kind will do 2 cups whole milk (3 if letting sit overnight) 3 eggs 3 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt
Your choice of flavorings: I used Deb's recommendation of 3 tablespoons Bailey’s and 3 tablespoons Cointreau, but she also suggests Frangelico (hazelnut), Chambord (raspberry), Creme de Cassis (black currant) Grand Marnier or just a teaspoon or two of vanilla or almond extract. You can add a teaspoon of zest for a citrusy kick, add a half-cup of chopped nuts such as almond slivers or pecans between layers or on top or a similar amount of raisins or other dried fruits. And of course, let's not forget chocolate chips for over-the-top indulgence.
1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with salted (Deb's fave) or unsalted butter. 2. Arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan. Cut one slice into smaller pieces to fill in gaps, especially when using braided Challah. If using a thinner-sliced bread, you might wish for more layers, though Deb finds that over three, baking can be uneven. If you are using any fillings of fruit or nuts, this is the time to get them between the layers or sprinkled atop. 3. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt and booze or flavorings of your choice and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and dot with butter. 4. If making at night, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The bread will absorb all of the milk custard while you sleep. 5. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. This will take longer if you have additional layers. 6. Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or all of the above.
Serves 6 as main course.