This French toast is ideal for a make-ahead breakfast or brunch: You prepare the whole thing the night before, and then bake it off in the morning. It is sweet (and flavorful) enough not to require syrup. If you serve it with the smallest dollop of crème fraîche-soured whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel, it becomes fully dessert. —Cristina Sciarra
Test Kitchen Notes
This is so gosh-darn good that it is worth all of the butter. I love the caramelized apple-pear mixture, which adds a great dpth of flavor and sweetness witht h custard-y French toast. Brioche is the perfect bread for this, because it offers a sweet and eggy flavor all its own. It does take a little time to break down the fruit (about 35 minutes) but delivers an almost chutney-style result. —figgypudding
10 (it’s rich, so 2 slices of toast per person works well)
Wash, peel, core, and quarter the apples and pears. Meanwhile, in a 9-inch saucepan, melt the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together over low heat. Stir until the sugar has (almost completely) dissolved into the butter. Arrange the apple and pear pieces in the pan -- at the start, you won’t be able to fit them all. As the fruit cooks down, there will be space in the pan -- add the leftover pieces as you can. Turn the heat to just north of medium, until the butter starts to bubble. Allow the fruit to cook undisturbed for 10 to 12 minutes, until the butter turns golden, on its way to toasty brown. (This is not the time to check your email. You need to be watching the fruit quite closely, as the line between “perfectly caramelized” and “burnt” happens in a flash.) After 12 minutes, all the fruit should be in the pan; give everything a stir. Stirring occasionally, continue to cook the fruit for another 25 minutes, or until the apples and pears have broken down, and are the color of golden raisins. Take the pan off the heat; set it aside.
To a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the kosher salt, and the vanilla extract. Add all of the eggs and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the milk and the half-and-half, whisking as you go, until the liquid is smooth.
Cut the pain de mie loaf into 1/3-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange the slices in a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish, in two even rows. Spoon the cooked fruit around and on top of the bread. Pour the custard over and around the bread and fruit. Cover the casserole with plastic or foil, and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Bake the French toast, uncovered, for 40 minutes, or until the custard is mostly set, but still soft or runny in places. Serve warm.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.