Lazy Oven French Toast
Butter or oil spray
4 cups milk
6 large eggs
2 T granulated sugar
2 T maple syrup, plus more for serving (optional)(to which I say really, optional?, I don't think so)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher or coarse salt
1 large loaf challah bread, preferably slightly stale, sliced 3/4 to 1 inch thick
3/4 cup whole raisins, chopped dried fruit, or chopped nuts (optional)
Fresh fruit such as berries, sliced peaches or pears, and/or confectioner's sugar, for serving.
1. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with butter or spray.
2. Place the milk, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to mix well. Set aside.
3. Arrange half of the bread slices in the prepared baking dish, cutting the bread so that it fits in a solid layer. Pour half of the milk mixture over the top, then evenly distribute half the dried fruit or nuts, if using, over the top.
4. Repeat, creating a second layer of bread and then pouring the rest of the milk mixture on top and distributing rest of the fruit or nuts over the bread. Lightly press the bread down into the liquid.
5. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap (luckily my pan has a cover so I'm able to skip this step) and refrigerate over night. The bread will have absorbed almost all of the milk mixture. Uncover the baking dish and if there are dryer looking pieces on top, take them off and carefully tuck them underneath the bread on the bottom so that the more milk-soaked pieces are now on top (this is messy but it all works out in the baking). Note that any dried fruit sitting on top of the French toast will get pretty chewy when baked and nuts on top will get toasty; the fruit and nuts tucked into the French toast will be softer, so disperse the fruit and nuts as you see fit.
6. Preheat the oven to 425*F.
7. Bake the French toast, uncovered, until it is puffed and golden, 30 to 35 minutes.
8. Let the French toast sit for 5 minutes to firm up a bit, then cut into squares and serve it hot with your choice of maple syrup, fresh fruit, and/or a dusting of confectioner's sugar.
On the side notes Katie adds perfectly helpful hints as to what the kids can do to help but since I created this at about 11:00 on New Year's Eve Groovy Girl was too busy being silly with her older siblings to help me pour and squish. It was her first late night NY's Eve and I can't blame her.
I made this exactly as the recipe states EXCEPT since my kids are not fans of either nuts or dried fruit I did a cranberry twist. I made a compote out of one bag of cranberries, a little orange juice, local honey, and some lemon zest and let it simmer on medium heat while I prepared the French toast. I poured this in-between layers and on top. The cranberries were a pretty addition against the yellow/white bread/egg mixture plus they were tart and perfect with our real maple syrup.