Bad weather had us boxed indoors last weekend. This apple French toast was an effort to lift our spirits in the sunless, foggy conditions. Apples are in abundance and a warm, cinnamon and vanilla-scented baked French toast topped with juicy fruit was just what the doctor ordered. Fresh, crisp apples and homemade whole wheat bread make this bake a hearty, homey dish ideal for family-style breakfasts or brunches.
Choose the right bread
Okay, so the texture of your French toast is decided by the bread you use. Whatever your choice, stay away from white, supermarket bread because it will turn to gloop when it’s soaked overnight in milk and egg custard. If your preference veers towards rich and fluffy, French toast, go for brioche – since it’s loaded with butter and eggs or opt for a challah – slightly sweet and strictly for those who don’t mind the extra sweetness.Both these, work well to absorb the custard while retaining a soft but good bite.
If like me, you are slightly peevish about using, sugary and buttery loaves to make an apple French toast that calls for about 3 tbsps of butter, opt for a firmer, more artisan-style bread. These will have some chew (which I like), that contrasts well with the soft-cooked apples. Baguettes, peasant / whole grain breads and boules are my recommendation. This apple French toast should have a caramelised topping of apples crowning a firm yet spongy base of bread that has had time overnight to absorb the fragrant custard into every crumb.
I had homemade whole wheat bread, most of which I used to make this apple French toast bake. You need about 350-400 grams of bread for this recipe.
Why you must soak the French toast overnight
Since the recipe uses sturdier breads, time is needed for the slices to draw-in the milk and egg custard, absorb and allow it to be distributed evenly, so that there are no dry bits of bread left. The slow soak makes for a fluffier, more creamy French toast, which is the entire point of French toast.
For me, the best part of this apple French toast is that I’m done the night or even evening before with all the prep, and all I have to do in the morning is bung it in the oven. I mean, you could even do the prep and have it sitting in the custard bath for 2 days.
Make it luxe
I have plans to sex-up this apple French toast when I have friends over for brunch. A combination of apples and pears is one way of doing it, with some walnuts thrown in for crunch. Part of the milk in the custard may be swapped for light cream for a silkier, more lush texture. A blend of spices like fennel, dry ginger, coriander would make an interesting and very different version. Crispy bacon with apples….the ways to jazz up this bake are exciting.
Apple French Toast
- 450 g baguette / whole grain bread, sliced
- 4-5 eggs
- 50 g golden castor sugar
- 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
- 550 ml milk
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the apple topping
- 4 medium sized apples, cored and thinly sliced with skin on
- 3 tbsp soft or melted butter
- 3/4 tsp powdered cinnamon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 30 g granulated sugar
- Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9"x 13" baking dish with butter and arrange the sliced bread in a single layer.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, sugar, vanilla and ground spices until combined well.
- Pour this mixture evenly over the bread slices.
- In another bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, butter, lemon juice and powdered cinnamon. Arrange the apple slices over the bread in a single or 2 layers.
- Cover the dish with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Remove the baking dish from the fridge and bake the French toast for 45-50 minutes or till the egg custard has set. Serve warm.