My father-in-law is of Slovenian descent and every year for the holidays, he makes loaves of poteca (po-teet-sa), a traditional yeast bread with a lemon-scented walnut filling. I used a delicious recipe for Crème Brûlée French Toast from Gourmet Magazine as my starting point and added the walnut and lemony goodness of the poteca. The result is a like a mash-up of a sticky bun & poteca in French toast form.
It's great for a holiday breakfast—decadent and delicious, plus prepped the night before. In the morning, it just requires a room temperature rest and a stint in the oven—easy peasy! —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
This is a piece of holiday breakfast joy. I was going to make HLA's dish for brunch guests, but they succumbed to the flu so with her help, I halved the recipe, using 2 eggs plus another yolk. In her typical fashion, HLA layered the flavorful undertones by utilizing lemon zest and vanilla in both the sugar mixture and the egg base, resulting in a rich and lovely taste. Using my daughter's childhood baking pans, I made two different batches and discovered you can make this recipe more of a breakfast bun or an eggy, baked French toast. The bread I used was a dense honey oat, and I cut just under 1-inch slices. With the first batch I left the crusts on the bread and poured the egg mixture on the bread, as directed. When baked the next day, we thought it resembled a less sticky and very delicious breakfast bun. With the second batch, I cut off the crusts, and actually dipped the bread slices in the egg mixture, and then placed the bread in the baking dish. Then I poured excess egg liquid over the bread. This batch had an eggier texture, more like a French toast. Both preparations have their merits and the sugar and walnut mixture works beautifully. Thanks for a great recipe. —Bevi
loaf unsliced white sandwich bread
firmly packed light brown sugar
(one stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups
plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half, divided
Zest from two lemons, divided
vanilla extract, divided
walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
In This Recipe
Heat oven to 225° F. Remove end crusts (heels) from bread, then cut bread into six 1-inch-thick slices. The bread slices should fit tightly in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Place slices of bread directly on oven rack near center of oven, and dry for about 15 minutes. Bread should not start to toast or fully dry out, but the surfaces should feel dry to the touch. Turn off oven.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar together over medium heat, stirring frequently. When mixture boils and butter and sugar are combined, remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons half-and-half, all but 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour mixture into bottom of 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts in an even layer over the brown sugar mixture. Place bread slices in a tightly packed single layer over the chopped walnuts. You may trim the crusts if needed or if desired.
In a bowl whisk together eggs, 1 1/2 cups half-and-half, granulated sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Make sure sugar is dissolved, and eggs have been completely incorporated. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover and chill overnight (at least 8 hours).
Remove pan from refrigerator, and allow to rest at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° F and bake French toast in middle of oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. The edges should just begin to brown, and the bread should puff up. Allow to rest for 5 to 6 minutes, then serve by inverting the pieces onto plates. (The first one will not look as nice as the rest, so give that one to yourself.)
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.