Sadly, my beach vacation to South Carolina has come and gone – but, it was a damn good time while it lasted! Even with some less-than-pleasant beach weather (temps in the low 70s, windy, and cloudy), it was great to take a few days off of work, and spend some time with good friends. Good food and beer didn’t hurt, either.
When we were planning out our ladies weekend, we decided that we wanted to put together a nice breakfast for Saturday morning; we figured it made sense to start a long day of beach-laying and beer-drinking with something fairly substantial in our stomachs. After some browsing around Pinterest and some of my favorite food blogs, I decided to go with a fairly simple baked french toast. It was something that was easy to make, didn’t require too many ingredients, and could be made the night before, and just popped into the oven on Saturday morning and bake while we prepped everything else. I picked a recipe to use… and then totally changed it, because the proportions seemed off to me, and also because I wanted to work with what was available to me. Please note that I may or may not have been several cocktails into the evening when I put this french toast bake together, which I think is a testament to how easy it is to make.
Almond and Orange French Toast Bake
must be made ahead of time, and allowed to sit overnight!
1-2 loaves of a good, bakery-style white bread (French or Italian is fine here)*
2 cups whole milk
1/2 t salt
3 T amaretto liqueur (or 1.5 t almond extract)
zest of two oranges
5 T sugar, divided
*You want your bread to be good and crusty for this recipe, because otherwise it’ll end up a little soggy and mushy. So, you can either start with day-old, slightly stale bread, or you can toast your bread to dry it out a bit. I cut my 2 loaves of bread into 1″ slices, laid them out on a rimmed baking sheet, and threw them into a 350 oven for about 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them to brown at all, just to get a bit dried out and crispy.
1.) Start by buttering a 9×13 pan (I failed to remember this step; see above, re: several cocktails). Once the pan is buttered, layer in your bread. You can either lay the bread flat into the pan and create 2-3 layers (making sure to totally fill the pan, ripping pieces of bread into smaller pieces to stuff into the gaps), or you can create rows of bread that are leaned up against each other in the pan. I chose option 2, as I just thought it looked prettier.
2.) Once your bread is all in the pan, mix up your custard. Add eggs, milk, salt, amaretto liqueur, orange zest, and 3 T sugar into a bowl, and whisk well until everything is combined. Pour the custard mixture over the bread, as evenly as you can.
3.) Take a minute to squish the bread down into the egg mixture, soaking the bread as best you can. Once you’ve done that, sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the top of the dish, cover with plastic wrap, and put into the fridge to sit overnight, so that the bread has time to soak up all the custard.
4.) The next morning, take your baking dish out of the fridge, and let it sit at room temp while your oven heats to 425°. Once the oven has come to temp, put your french toast bake (uncovered) into the oven for about 30 minutes (you’ll need a bit longer if you have a really thick pile of bread). You’re looking for the top edges of the bread to be brown and crispy, but for the bottom of the french toast to be set (eggy and moist, but not wet). If it looks like the top is getting too brown, but the bottom is still wet, cover the pan with some foil and continue to bake until the bottom is set.
You can serve this french toast bake any way you like; you can choose to go simple, and dust it with a bit of powdered sugar and serve it with syrup, or you can get a little fancier, and serve it with some lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries. Either way, it’s a very pretty dish, and it has just the right hint of almond and orange, without being overpowering or heavy.
I would definitely make this again. It is great for any sort of gathering or event where you don’t want to have to wake up and stand over the stove to feed everyone. Additionally, it was really tasty, but without feeling too over-the-top or decadent. Win-win, in my book!
Don’t forget to butter the pan,