Challah Baked French Toast

Exploring options on what to make for Easter brunch was a lot of fun but I was trying to find some things that would be good for a large group of people. Baked french toast sounded like a perfect idea and after googling for a few days I decided to go with one of my favorites, Giada. I minimally changed her recipe and I trusted her for the basic premise. A lot of recipes soaked the bread overnight and I was worried it would become a soggy mess. Giada’s seemed like the perfect compromise. Baked French Toast is very easy to put together and it beats standing on the stove with a spatula flipping one piece of bread at a time. And the smells coming out of your oven are out of this world… it smells more like desert and less like brunch!

Here is Giada’s recipe! I made two large casserole dishes with 2 1/2 loaves of challah and 2 bags of frozen blueberries (the fresh ones didn’t look great).

Ingredients

  • Butter, for greasing and to brush on top
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving (make sure you warm your maple syrup for the table before serving)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Day-old challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Dash of vanilla

Directions

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

Cut your challah in 1 inch slices and again into 1 inch cubes.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Melt some butter and using a brush, paint the top of the casserole dish and top with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar. I also added some more lemon zest on top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is set. Spoon onto serving plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

Here is our Easter brunch in the oven, Challah French Toast and Eggs in a Basket.

Eggs in a Basket

How perfect and balanced is this recipe? You get your potato, eggs, meat and cheese all in one nicely packed basket.  All the flavors work so well together and they are pretty easy to make! I concocted these baskets for Easter brunch (yes the Jewtalian hosted a brunch on Easter) so I wasn’t as on top of the photo taking as usual but thank goodness for Lisa!  Luckily, in our family we have an “Easter Exemption Rule” whenever Easter happens to fall during Passover so we were allowed to enjoy this brunch.   The baskets didn’t come out as pretty as they could because I was doing too many things at once but I highly recommend using the large cup cake pans as the smaller ones are trickier.  I will say the small bite sized baskets made it very easy to just pop in your mouth!

The inspiration for these tasty bites came from here.

To make life easier I bought frozen potato hash browns from Whole Foods. They had no additives in there (just potato) and it saved me from lots of potato shredding.  I was cooking for 12 people so I won’t provide you with my measurements. If you can’t eyeball it, I would follow the measurements from the recipe above.  I also used butter which is unlike me. You can certainly make this dish a bit more calorie friendly but since it was a holiday I was going for maximum flavor, not calorie counting 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • Bag potato hash browns, frozen
  • Eggs
  • Fresh grated Gruyère and parmesan cheese
  • Zucchini
  • Shallots
  • Prosciutto, sliced thin and cut into smaller pieces
  • Maple Syrup (few tablespoons)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Low fat sour cream
  • Non stick cooking spray
  • Butter for the pan

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put your hash browns in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. I added one egg white to help the potatoes stick together.
  • Making the baskets out of potatoes takes a bit of practice but you get the hang of it after a few. I recommend putting a spoonful into your sprayed cup cake holder and use your thumb to push it down.  Then use your thumb to push the potato up the sides making sure you have the side covered at least half way up so it holds your eggs.  Add more potato as necessary. I made mine using a very thin layer as I wanted them crispy, not mushy.
  • When you have filled all of your cupcakes, spray with olive oil and bake for half hour or so, until the edges are browned.  You can do this in advance and set them aside until you are ready to bake the eggs and eat.  As you can see in the photo I was skimpy on some with the potatoes so I added a little more to cover the holes knowing they would cook more in the oven.

  • I had leftover potatoes after filling my muffin trays so I decided to also use a quiche dish with the remaining.

  • Place your prosciutto in a shallow bowl and marinate in maple syrup while you prepare the rest of the dish. This can be done well in advance.  The sweetness and saltiness of the prosciutto on top of your basket is heavenly, in my opinion anyways.
  • Chop up the zucchini and shallots into small pieces.
  • Put a pan on the stove on medium heat and melt butter.  Add the zucchini and shallots and saute for a few minutes. Add salt & pepper.
  • In a large bowl crack your eggs and mix well.  Add a spoonful of sour cream to make your eggs a little creamier (optional). Add to the pan with the zucchini and onions.  At this point I also added some of the grated cheese. Add a bit more fresh cracked salt and pepper.
  • Cook the eggs until they are almost finished. Remember they will cook more in the oven. You want them to be a tiny bit runny still but not so liquid that they won’t hold in the baskets.
  • Fill each cup with the egg mixture.  Top with cheese and a piece of prosciutto.  Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the prosciutto looks crispy (about 10-15 minutes).

Eat and enjoy!!

I feel it’s perfectly acceptable to pick these baskets up with your hands and pop them in your mouth! Deee-licious.

You can see how the tiny ones were a bit messy but it didn’t affect the taste 😉

Here is a photo of our Easter table. Don’t worry, the recipe for the french toast casserole made with challah is coming soon.