By Alexandra Hall
Summer weekends are ready-made for long, lazy brunches that tend to ease us all into the middle of the day. But you need a star dish to make that happen–one that stops everyone in the middle of pouring their O.J. and completely hijacks the conversation. That’s just what this one does. But it requires some pre-prep; you’ve got to soak the challah bread starting the night before to achieve its custardy, decadent texture, and make sure you’ve got the freshest fruits on-hand to make the most of summer’s sweet bounty. It’s well worth that extra bit of effort, though. Got your forks ready? This is one you won’t soon forget.
Baked Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast
For the batter:
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ pint milk
1 tbsp. vanilla
½ cup heavy cream
For the French toast:
8 slices challah bread
1 cup strawberries, washed and sliced
1 cup diced rhubarb, washed and sliced
¼ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup maple syrup
The night before you’ll be eating the dish for breakfast or brunch, first make the strawberry rhubarb compote:
In a saucepan, mix strawberries, rhubarb, and stir in the sugar over low heat. Simmer and stir to blend, until the fruits have blended to a smooth, thick sauce with chunks of fruits. Take off the heat and chill.
While that sets, make the batter. Mix the eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl, then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and cream until everything is incorporated.
Spread the bread evenly with the fruit compote and arrange shingle-style in an ovenproof casserole dish. Pour the French toast batter over the top and carefully move the bread so it’s surrounded by the batter.
Refrigerate the mix overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the French toast casserole and bake 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream with a whisk or beater.
Remove the casserole cover and brown lightly, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve with whipped cream and maple syrup.
Alexandra Hall is a Boston food writer and co-author of Fresh & Honest, Food From The Farms of New England and the Kitchen of Henrietta’s Table.