For Bon Appetit, by Sarah Salvatoriello.
Welcome to Cooking Without Recipes, in which we teach you how to make a dish we love, but don’t worry too much about the nitty-gritty details of the recipe, so you can create your own spin. Every day this week, we'll be bringing you a staffer's favorite weekend brunch recipe—the one they bust out to impress company without too much stress. Today, creative services' creative director Sarah Salvatoriello her make-ahead fruit and nut baguette French toast.
Growing up as the daughter of a Home Ec teacher in a large Italian family, I learned that my house should be full of good food and good people at all times. When we had guests over for breakfast as a kid, my mom made a fruit and nut French toast that filled the air with sweet smells—a reminder that the fun from the night before wasn’t quite over yet. Now that I have a family of my own, when I find myself hosting unexpected overnight guests, I make sure to have a killer brunch ready to greet us in the morning.
My move is to make my mom's make-ahead French toast with my own spin on it—she used pecans and blueberries, but you can use whatever fruit or nuts you have on hand (I’ve been known to sift through trail mix in a pinch for walnuts and dried cherries). She also didn't use a baguette, but I do. Once you have the ingredients, here’s what you do:
Cut 1 baguette into 1” slices and place in a single layer in a 13”x9” baking dish that you’ve greased with coconut oil. Top the bread with a mixture of 3 eggs, 1 cup milk,½ cup brown sugar, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, and 1 tsp. almond extract (almond instead of vanilla unexpectedly blows people’s minds and it helps bring out whatever nut you top it with). Refrigerate overnight so the bread absorbs all of the sweet, goopy liquid.
In the morning, toast 6 oz. pecans at 350° for about 5 to 8 minutes until they're fragrant. Toss them with 1 Tbsp. melted butter (or Earth Balance if you're lactose intolerant like me) and top your bread along with 6 oz. fresh blueberries. Mix 3 Tbsp. melted butter with ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp nutmeg. Drizzle over bread, nuts, and fruit. Bake dish uncovered at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes until things look a bubbly and golden brown. You’ll know it’s ready because you'll smell the caramelized fruit aromas—fragrant, nutty, brown sugary.
If you're feeling ambitious or hosting a guest with a super-sweet tooth, simmer maple syrup in a medium saucepan with whatever fruit you have on hand while the French toast bakes, then serve the fruit-syrup sauce warm on the side. This dish pairs best with a Bellini (fine, any “hair of the dog” will do), a double espresso, and laughs about memories of the shenanigans you all had together the night before.
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