Yesterday was a no good, horrible, rotten day. My twins were perfect angels…well, except when the boy-child tried to argue with me about solstices and equinoxes…other than that, they were little cherubs. The Soldier was home early enough for us to eat dinner before heading out to the kids’ troop meetings. I was alive. So, why was it a terrible day? Well, because sometimes people suck. Sorry (not sorry) to put it that way, but it’s true. And, sometimes, when life gets to be at its most suckiest, I make things like this Apple Orchard French Toast Bake to make it less sucky. It didn’t really work, but I didn’t care because my belly was happy.
This is what three-hundred dollars, stuffed into a box, looks like. The start of Suckfest 2018 kicked off with my new camera bag arriving. In style? That’s all relative. It came to me in a moving box that was taped, had a hole gouged in it, and contained my three-hundred dollar bag. Three-hundred-twenty-three dollars, to be exact. But, hey! What’s a few Benjamins, right? Well, this particular company found out what my money means to me via email…and every social media account they have. Means a lot, homie. I’m not balling, so I expect my stuff to come prettily wrapped and protected, thank you ever so kindly.
Sucky day o’the year continued with my discovery of a weevil infestation in a bag of pho noodles I brought home from the supermarket. It wasn’t even expired, but they were chilling in that cellophane like they were getting ready to enjoy the pho with us. Needless to say, the dollar forty-seven wasn’t worth the trip back to the supermarket to raise hell, so I chucked into the trash bin. So, bringing my day to a close, I realized it wasn’t all that bad. Annoying, yes, but I could count my blessings as I crawled into bed at a record-making 9pm.
Then this happened:
I mean…that escalated quickly, didn’t it? One minute we’re “fam”, the next minute she’s telling me to “F” off. All because I’m not a drug dealer? Harsh!
So, then this had to happen:
“F” off, indeed, Dennise, with the unnecessary “N”. “F” off, indeed. And while I’m over here “F’ing” off, I’m going to go get my challah and my apples and make this “better-than-illegally-obtained-DOPE” french toast. I’m not giving you even the slightest nibble. How’s that, “Fam“?
I love this recipe because of the apple-overload it contains. Apple butter (apple-pear butter, actually, since I still had a few pints leftover), and an apple cider glaze are combined to make this an apple-extravaganza. Challah is what I used this time since I had an extra loaf laying around getting stale. You know, because everyone just has spare challahs these days. But, this brioche would be beautiful in this recipe, as well. You can prep the french toast bake the evening before. This allows the custard to soak into the bread before it’s baked in the morning. The key to this recipe is using day (or two) old bread. Stale bread takes on the soaking of custard much better than a fresh loaf of bread. If you absolutely must use fresh bread, dry it out for a few minutes in the oven prior to slicing. If you’re opting to use an apple butter besides mine…*sideye*…reduce the amount of brown sugar by half. “Other” apple butters don’t have the same amount of tartness as mine…especially when my friends use them instead of mine. Mine becomes really tart, then. Along with my face. I still love you, though.
So, how do we get this done?
For starters, we need to slice the bread into 1/2″ thick slices. My goal was to make this casserole similar to a monkey, or pull-apart, bread. At the same time, I didn’t want the slices so thin that they would disintegrate with the addition of the custard. A half-inch was the perfect thickness to accomplish both ends. Use a sharp serrated knife to avoid tearing the bread slices. This is the one I’m using, but this one is a good knife as well. Keep the slices in order. That will come in handy for the next step.
Spray a 2.5 qt casserole dish with non-stick baking spray, or lightly butter, to prevent sticking. You want a casserole dish that’s about 4″ deep, or deep enough to leave a bit of headspace for the bread. Take your homemade apple butter, store bought is fine too, and slather it onto one side of the bread. Your first piece should have the apple butter on the interior of the bread (as shown). The final “butt-end” will not have any apple butter spread on it. Coat each slice of bread with a generous layer of apple butter, but remember, only on one side.
Once you’ve spread the apple butter onto a slice, place it into the greased casserole dish. You’re basically reassembling the apple buttered-loaf in the dish. If you start to run out of room, simply do what I do- smoosh it in. Technical chef-term, that one is. Continue slathering and shoving until you reach the other end. Set it aside so we can work on the custard.
In a large mixing bowl, grab a half-dozen large eggs. You’re going to use four whole eggs, and two egg yolks. This creates a thick custard. Save the remaining egg whites for an omelet, or something. Always use large eggs for baking. Large eggs are, on average, 1.62 oz. Because of this, most recipe writers use large eggs in their recipes because they are confident that the recipes will always be accurate. Unless otherwise instructed, use large eggs to ensure the most consistent results in a dish. Lightly beat the eggs to break them up before you add the remaining ingredients. You don’t need to beat them, you just want to rough up the yolks a bit to show them who’s runnings things around here.
Next add brown sugar. Brown sugar reminds me of molasses…partly because it’s sugar that has molasses added to it. Go figure. But, the deep, caramel flavor works so well when paired up with the tart apple butter. White sugar just doesn’t compare. A good substitute would be maple syrup, but that may thin out your custard a bit. Whisk in the brown sugar until the eggs look syrupy.
Now add the half-and-half. You can also use whole milk, or cream, or half milk and half cream (which is half-and-half)- TA-DAAAA!!
Add your spices, including a pinch of salt which helps enhance the other ingredients.
Finally, to round out the custard’s flavor, zest the peel of a orange with a microplane. Microplanes are the business because you get the finest zest of peel using them. I also used it to grate my nutmeg. It’s a must-have tool in the kitchen. You don’t need the whole peel, just a tbsp of it. Peel the remainder and juice it, or toss it to the kids and let them fight to the death for it. No. Don’t start a Kid’s Fight Club in your house. I do not condone that, at all. Add vanilla extract, then whisk the custard together until it is completely blended.
Pour the custard over the apple buttered-bread in the casserole dish. Don’t freak out if the bread starts floating, or if the custard fills the dish up completely. The bread will soak up the custard as it sits. Freak out if the custard overflows and spills onto your countertop, though. That’s an indication that your dish isn’t large enough. Clean up the mess and wipe the sides of the casserole dish and don’t add any more. (And make a note to buy a bigger casserole dish for the next time)
If you’re able to get most of the custard poured onto the bread, it’ll be fine with what it has in there. If you haven’t been able to pour at least half of the custard onto the bread, you’ll need to transfer the bread to a larger dish. It’ll be messy, but unless you use most of the custard, you’ll end up with a dry french toast.
Cover the casserole dish with the lid (if it has one), or with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit, in the fridge, for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. This gives the bread time to soak up all of that delicious custard.
When you’re ready to bake the custard, place it into a cold oven. Set the oven’s temperature to 375°F and allow the oven to heat up with the french toast inside. This helps the dish warm up gradually which will prevent it from shattering due to an extreme temperature fluctuation. It also helps the casserole to bake evenly.
While your custard is baking, make your apple cider glaze. Bring apple cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the cider to reduce by half, meaning: mark an imaginary line on the pot where the apple cider started. Boil the cider until it drops, in volume, to half of that. This will concentrate the flavor of the cider, as well as thicken it. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cider with powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.
Once your apple casserole has finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the glaze over it while it’s still hot.
Gorg. You can either serve it as is, or, if you’re greedy like me…
Dust it with some cinnamon-powdered sugar. Because, #suckydaysyall.
You definitely need to pin this one because 2018 just started, and we’re all bound to have our fair of sucky days. This will get you through them.
Apple Orchard French Toast Bake
Yield 8 servings
Apple butter makes this an easy to come-together breakfast treat. Prep the evening before and breakfast is ready before you know it.
Overnight soak time is optional. See note.
1 6" loaf day old challah, or brioche, cut into 1/2" thick slices
1 1/2-2 pints apple butter
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup apple cider
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp melted butter (1/4 stick)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Spray a 2.5 qt casserole dish with non-stick baking spray, or lightly butter, to prevent sticking. Spread the apple butter onto one side of each of the bread slices. Place the slices into the greased casserole dish- reassembling the apple buttered-loaf in the dish.
In a large mixing bowl combine the whole eggs and the egg yolks, the brown sugar, half-and-half, the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
Finally, add the orange zest and the vanilla extract; whisk the custard together until it is completely blended. Pour the custard over the apple buttered-bread in the casserole dish. Cover the casserole dish with the lid (if it has one), or with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit, in the fridge, for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. This gives the bread time to soak up the custard.
When you're ready to bake the custard, place the dish into a cold oven. Set the oven's temperature to 375°F and allow the oven to heat up with the dish inside. Bake for 40-45 minutes. If the top begins to get too brown, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.
While your custard is baking, make your apple cider glaze: bring the apple cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the cider to reduce by half. Remove from the stove and allow to cool to room temperature. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cider with the powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.
Once your apple casserole has finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the glaze over it while it's still hot. Serve as is, or sprinkle with a mixture of 1 tsp ground cinnamon combined with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
- This casserole is best enjoyed warm, but is just as delicious reheated.
If you can't soak for 24 hours, allow to soak for a minimum of 4 hours for best results.
Try these other fabulous recipes which are cure-alls for sucky days too:
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