I believe I have gone a little bit pecan-crazy. Three out of the four recipes I have tried over the last ten days involve pecans in one way or another. I blame this on the fact that when November first rolled around, I happened to read an article that stated we were, in fact, celebrating the national month for pecans. There’s such a thing?? Such useful trivia gets stored in this thing between my ears.
Of course, I couldn’t let go of this little morsel of information. There have been times in my life that I felt like I would love to live in Georgia; mainly the summer, (for the peaches) and now November, (for the Pecans). Although now that I’ve looked it up on trusty Wikipedia, I see that if I am only after a pecan-growing location, there are many more options other than Georgia. I like fresh Georgia peaches in the summertime though, so I’ll stick with it.
Without even making an effort to draw them forward, pecan recipes kept finding me – and tempting me. Conversations, blogs, magazines – they have all be screaming “PECANS, DAD GUM IT!”, and I have embarked and a pecan-laden journey.
One of those conversations/recipes was a french toast casserole conversation I had with my mother-in-law. She mentioned a recipe her friend had suggested for Thanksgiving morning – that it was to-die-for and that she would make it this year. It brought to mind a recipe I had tagged over the summer from Paula Dean, and, since I am pecan-crazed at the moment and could’t possibly wait until Thanksgiving to see if it was the same recipe, I made it this weekend.
That delicious-looking topping wasn’t just delicious-looking, it was delicious-tasting too. . . warm, crunchy, praline-ish topping over something very similar to bread pudding. During the Saturday morning critique session from the male contingent in our house – which is roughly 67% of us, it was decided that, once a serving of the casserole was cut up into individual bites, there was too much variation in the quality of said bites. Translation: bites with topping were awesome, bites without were not.
I have some suggestions to remedy this, although, I felt it was pretty darn good just the way it was. I don’t want to walk away from breakfast feeling heavy and sick, and this recipe was good for that. Delightful little bites of heaven, balanced with mild bites of lighter stuff – and honestly, when you have maple syrup on your plate – just dip the “bland” bites! I’ll give you the recipe the way I prepared it, then follow with the suggestions to make it full of 100% awesome bites.
Oh – and lest I forget to mention – this is an incredibly easy, slap-it-together-the-night-before kind of recipe, AND it’s a great way to use up a leftover loaf of bread from your Thanksgiving feast.
Baked French Toast Casserole (my way)
1 loaf French bread (go for the good stuff here – it makes a difference in the mushy-factor)
4 large eggs
1 Cup half and half
1/2 Cup milk
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash of salt
Prepare 8×8″ glass baking dish by generously buttering bottom and sides. Slice French bread into 20 slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Arrange half the bread slices in a single layer in glass baking dish. Tear or cut slices as needed to create a layer of bread that fits snuggly together. fit Pour half of milk/egg mixture over slices. Repeat by arranging second layer of bread slices over the first, and pour remaining milk/egg mixture over the top. If needed, spoon some of the mixture between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
To make it with 100% awesome bites, I suggest these alterations:
Use a 15″ glass baking dish and use the same amount of bread in a single layer. Double the praline topping and spread over the entire casserole. I’m guessing the baking time would be less – I’d start checking after 20-25 minutes and watch it. Serve warm, with maple syrup – although I’m guessing you might not need it!
Source: Adapted from Paula Dean, on The Food Network.