If you love French toast in its many varieties like I do, you probably know already that a baked version of a French toast with some fresh fruit in it is a Rolls Royce of the toasts. Crunchy and nutty on top, aromatic, tangy, sweet and runny inside, relatively benign in sugar: a real old school culinary gem revisited. And, it’s actually a snap to construct. The most difficult part is to allow the flavours to macerate overnight in the fridge.
Next morning you can cough it up within 45 minutes of baking. And don’t limit yourself to just fresh strawberries and rhubarb. This baked toast will be as delicious with the combinations of blueberries, blackberries and lemon; quince, pear and passion fruit; apples and cranberries, etc. We made it last week-end for the Father’s day.
It’s not unusual for me to be lost in the dish choices when preparing for the event and this time was no different. How I came up with this idea was a bit weird but worked out for good. I wanted to make something special, a one of a kind dish (preferably for breakfast). Driven by a nostalgic desire for simplicity, I tried to reach my inner Escoffier for a quick advice.
The great chef must have been on a sick leave though ‘cause the only answer was: ‘Make a Layer Cake’. That was obviously clueless: ‘Layer Cake? Really? In the middle of summer? For the Father’s Day? Are you kidding me?’ Pause. ‘OK, then bring him to a diner dive’, clearly, Chef Fieri just took the mind shift. ‘Are you serious? Not even a Melba Peach or something for breakfast?’ Then either legendary Monsieur Auguste or the years of legal reasoning kicked in: Melba – Toast – French Toast- Specialty French Toast – Specialty French Toast for a French (Canadian) Father…and Oh, he loves bread…now we are talking… My inner dialogue was interrupted by the patriarch himself: ‘Hey, did you see how much rhubrarb we got this year? And I think it’s ready…’
BINGO, this is gonna be a FRENCH TOAST-RHUBARB-STRAWBERRY-BAKE for breakfast and I can smell it already in my mind. The other day I made crumbs to finish the gluten free rice flour loaf (excellent for topping mixed with nuts, butter and maple syrup or brown sugar) and we always have a baguette or two (feel free to use white gluten free bread if you’re gluten intolerant), eggs and milk in our fridge. Plus locally grown strawberries from a farmers market, and now freshly picked rhubarb – it will be a yummy.
Please note again that this is an overnight dish. But other than that is a real easy-peasy. Rip the one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Chop-chop-chop: strawberries, rhubarb (I always peel the rhubarb stems before chopping them, but apparently it is not a must anymore). Macerate the fruits with sugar and a bit of water – done.
Next, beat the egg & milk (or substitute) mixture with a bit of sugar, a pinch of ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour half of it over the bread chunks. Spread the macerated fruit mix over. Cover with the egg-milk mix and slide the baking into the fridge overnight covered with film to let the flavours marry.
Note: Although totally optional, if you happen to have some Grand Marnier or brandy in your bar, add a splash to the egg-milk mixture for that special French touch of it.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F, spread the nuts-butter- crumble topping to cover the toast dish and pop into the oven for 45-55 minutes (3 last images in the collage). When the house is filled with the caramelized fruit aroma, the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling – it’s ready. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.
Our French (Canadian) father was smiling mischievously when he stepped into the kitchen next morning … and then the wide grin at the breakfast said it all. The no ordinary French Toast was a huge success. If you happen to have any leftovers, reheat them in the individual ramekins next morning and they will still taste amazing.
And what do you think happened after this amazing breakfast? Well, may be somewhere around the Beltway fathers go play baseball with their kids all day long, but here in Canada – nah-nah-nah – think more of a ‘Canadian Bacon’ or ‘The Great Outdoors’…
Our father went to fell a tree with a chainsaw. Yep, that’s what he did last week-end. One of the gorgeous fir trees in our backyard has dangerously grown into the foundation of the house threatening that one day (or sooner) it will be either us or the tree residing in the dwelling, so, sadly, we had to let it go. And it was a hell of a job…
The prospect to go fishing next week-end helped to keep the spirits up and the BBQ family dinner with Bourbon Glazed Ribs, roasted new potatoes and chopped salad washed down by copious amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon wrapped the day quite successfully… not without an idea to make the whole next week a Father’s day week.
Cheers to all the great Fathers and I hope some of you will actually try this worthy dish!
RHUBARB STRAWBERRY FRENCH TOAST BAKE
Yields: 6-8 portions
1 baguette or French loaf, day old*
2 cups milk (or mix of yogurt and milk, or 5% or 10% cream, or almond milk depending on your diet)
7 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Splash of brandy or orange liquor (optional)
Pinch of salt
For Macerated Fruit Coulis
2 cups rhubarb, chopped in ½ inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, chopped in ½ inch pieces
½ cup of sugar, or maple syrup
2 tbsp water
For Nutty Topping Crumble
1 cup white fresh crumbs* (baguette, loaf, white gluten free bread or Panko crumbs)
½ cup melted butter or ghee
¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
½ cup slivered almonds or other chopped nuts
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Note* Use gluten free loaf and crumbs if you have gluten intolerance
Please note: this is an overnight dish.
Tear one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking greased dish. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar or maple syrup, add 2 tablespoons of water and put over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mix the eggs, milk (or substitute), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar or maple syrup, salt and liquor (if using) with the whisk until well combined. Pour half of the egg mixture over the bread chunks. Spread the macerated fruit mixture over the bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top. Cover with film and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the crumbs, butter, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Spread the nuts-butter-crumble topping to cover the toast dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling in the center. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.