Mar 18, 2010

Orange-Pecan French Toast Casserole

When it comes to cooking, some husbands are only good for grilling. But mine is the king of French toast. On the rare occasion when he’s up at bat in the kitchen (for, um, my birthday and... my birthday), that's his go-to meal, and he proudly makes his double-dipped, powdered sugar-covered, syrup smiley face specialty better than anyone I know. Until last week, that is, when the French toast fairy visited our home and forced me to outdo him with this little wonder.

French toast casserole? Never heard of such a thing. But let me tell you, it takes plain old egg-soaked bread to a whole new level. Think thick slices of chewy-crunchy French bread marinated in an orange-vanilla sauce and topped with a sinfully sweet pecan glaze. Um, yeah.

And aside from the upgraded flavor, there's more to make you drool. You don’t have to dip bread into a messy bowl off egg. Or stand over a frying pan, patiently flipping one piece at a time. Or bite into that gross fried egg film that just doesn't belong in a sweet breakfast treat. And most importantly, you can prepare the whole thing the night before, which makes it the perfect make-ahead breakfast for company and holidays.

So here's how I whipped this baby up. The topping, which is a mix of corn syrup, brown sugar and melted butter, goes down first. I spread that in the bottom of the pan and sprinkled on chopped pecans.

Next I sliced the French bread, forced myself not to butter and eat it on the spot, and layered the pieces on top of the glaze. It was a little tricky fitting all twelve into the pan, but with a little finagling, I made sure no man was left behind.

Then I poured on the sauce, a mix of orange juice, zest, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, sugar and eggs. I attempted to use fresh squeezed juice like the recipe called for, but after practically squeezing the veins out of my forehead and still only yielding an eighth of a cup, I gave up and turned to the bottle.

Into the fridge it went. In the morning I flipped each piece over to soak up the extra sauce. Note: When the recipe says to do this carefully, they mean it. You don't want to disturb that yummy pecan glaze underneath, or tear those fragile pieces of bread that will be soaked like sponges with orange-vanilla goodness.

After 20 minutes at room temperature and 35 minutes in the oven, these babies were golden, toasty and hot. Extremely hot. I think the glaze at the bottom must have been boiling because I went for taste test dip and nearly removed three layers of skin.

When I stopped screaming, I got my spatula under all that sauce, flipped a piece over and I had this: pure breakfast bliss.

Luke loved it. I loved it. Luke had seconds. I contemplated skipping church to have seconds. And for the rest of the week, we started our mornings with a sweet reminder that my French toast is just plain better than his.

So the king has been dethroned. Beating him at the one food he makes best may have caused a brief blow to his ego. For maybe like, half a second. But even that was muted by the French toast love affair taking place in his belly. And to that, I say only three words. Long live the queen.

Orange-Pecan French Toast Casserole
Cooking Light, June 2004
Yield: 12 servings

Cookbook Notes: Assemble the dish the night before your gathering, and pop it in the oven the next morning. Be sure to serve each slice bottom-side up so the pecan mixture is on top.

1  cup  packed brown sugar
1/3  cup  butter, melted
2  tablespoons  light-colored corn syrup
Cooking spray
1/3  cup  chopped pecans
1  teaspoon  grated orange rind
1  cup  fresh orange juice
1/2  cup  fat-free milk
3  tablespoons  granulated sugar
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
3  large egg whites
2  large eggs
12  (1-inch-thick) slices French bread (about 1 pound)

Combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly over sugar mixture.

Combine rind and next 7 ingredients (rind through eggs); stir with a whisk. Arrange bread slices over pecans in dish; pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Carefully turn bread slices over to absorb excess egg mixture. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 293 (29% from fat), Fat: 9.5g (sat 3.9g,mono 3.6g,poly 1.3g), Protein: 6.1g, Carbohydrate: 43.6g, Fiber: 1.6g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Iron: 1.6mg, Sodium: 323mg, Calcium: 69mg.


rosa said...

my husband is the french toast king in our household too! (although he does his share of cooking and can actually cook.) maybe i'll try this one and dethrone him too. ;)

Sarah said...

This looks like heaven in a dish! Way to go husband!

Small Burst said...

wow. I just want to gobble this up!

Mhel said...

I love toast!! And this toast casserole kinda intrigues me. I would love to try this one! Stopping by from SITS, thanks for sharing this!

Lisa Anne said...

My son would love this. Come to think of it so would The BF. They both love french toast and this is super easy. This would be perfect for Easter morning!

Erica said...

oh my goodness! This looks out of control good. Perfect for a weekend brunch :) Hope you're having a nice Friday

teresa said...

holy cow, delicious! and i love that you can make it ahead of time!

Love the Decor! said...

THis looks heavenly I am drooling as we speak!
In from sits.
Have a great day!!

Suzette said...

Heavenly! What a wonderful dish for a sweet spring day. My kids will love this one.
Stoped by from SITS to say hi!

Carol said...

Ohh, I know what we are going to have for breakfast tomorrow! This looks absolutely delicious! I wanted to eat my computer screen!
Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Melissa B. said...

I love your step-by-step photos/directions. This is so luxurious, I'll bet I could serve it for dinner, no?

Ingrid said...

I laughed out loud with this one. The kids had to come ask what was so funny.

btw, I'm bowing to your french toast greatness!

Julie said...

Reading about that topping made me a little weak in the a good way :)

Cool Lassi(e) said...

First time here. That is one seriously
yummy-licious french-toast casserole. I want to have a piece right now!
Would you be interested in participating in a giveaway happening at my space?Check my latest post.
-Cool Lassi(e)

Me, Myself and Pie said...

I agree that this would be just as excellent for a fancy Easter morning brunch as it would be for an easy dinner at home in your sweats! You all MUST try it.

bobwasahamster said...

Long live the queen. :)

--Happy Husband Luke

Marcy said...

You had me at "French Toast Casserole"! I love the fact that all of these decadent recipes come from Cooking Light. I have 2 of your recent items on the menu for this week. This one is Sunday morning brunch! **yippee**

Debbie said...

OK. I am thinking I am making this today! Surely it would make a good dinner too.

Lainie said...

This was so easy and delicious!!! It was the perfect mix of french toast and a sticky bun! I will definitely keep this in my recipe box.

Me, Myself and Pie said...

I'm so glad you liked it, Lainie!

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