Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast Casserole

They say that when it comes to gifts, the thought is what counts. In my opinion, eh, this is sometimes true. In some cases, of course it is, but in others, not so much. For father’s day, I wanted to make my dad something really personal. He always used to drink Pellegrino from the bottle, probably without even realizing that he was doing so; finally, I casually mentioned in a not-at-all-annoying way (I may be flattering myself here, but bear with me) that maybe other people wanted to drink from those bottles, and maybe he should use a glass. He decided to play along and start pouring his mineral water into glasses.

Where am I going with this whole story? Well, if you’re still awake, here’s the gist: I saw a post on pinterest about cutting glass bottles using nothing but acetone, string, and a little fire. I decided to make a glass for my dad to drink his water from, but make it out of an old Pellegrino bottle. Cute, right?!
Long story short (or not so short by this point), it ended in a frustrated me in the kitchen at midnight the night before father’s day, holding a still-firmly-intact seltzer bottle and staring at a pile of singed string. Scrambling to come up with a last-minute gift, French toast it was.

Father’s day happened to fall a couple of days before my sweet 16, so there were quite a few people staying over at our house that night. Instead of spending the entire morning dipping and flipping bread slices, I decided to make a French toast casserole. This is my new favorite breakfast! It’s super easy to assemble, tastes exactly like regular French toast, and can be thrown together the night before and simply popped in the oven in the morning.
This particular recipe was perfect for my dad, because he loves strawberries and doesn’t love too much sugar. This has quite a few strawberries tucked between the bread slices, and the custard mixture poured over the top is mildly sweet, but not cloying. Perfect for topping with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, some more fresh berries, and plenty of maple syrup!
So maybe it was the thought that counted with the whole Pellegrino bottle thing, or maybe I should try a different way... but then again, I don't really trust myself with a glass cutter.
Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast Casserole
(slightly adapted from Brooklyn Supper)

1 loaf day old challah, sliced into 3/4” thick slices (the store was out of challah, so I just used white sandwich bread)
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced, plus more for garnish
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups milk
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar and maple syrup, for serving

Butter a 9 x 13” baking pan. Arrange the challah slices so that they are overlapping, tearing a few pieces in half if needed. Tuck the strawberries between the slices.
In a medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk, sugar, salt, nutmeg, zest, and vanilla. Pour over the challah. Make sure that all of the slices are just about covered by the egg mixture–add more milk or rearrange the slices until they are. If refrigerating overnight, cover and chill. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for a half hour, or longer if you have time.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and take the baking dish out of the fridge. Once the oven is up to temperature, bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the french toast is a light golden brown and has puffed up nicely.
Slice and serve immediately with a dusting of confectioner's sugar, maple syrup and sliced strawberries.

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