01 September 2012

Baked Bagel French Toast

Baked french toast is one of the best breakfast dishes of all time.  It is a perfect combo of french toast and bread pudding, soaked overnight and baked off into golden, puffy perfection.  It's great for a fast and amazing breakfast, but it does require enough aforethought to prep the night before.  This foodie experiment was instigated by an overabundance of bagels.  A few days old and slightly dry, slightly stale bagels are the perfect consistency for baked french toast.  Rather than leaving them whole and soaking overnight, here you dice them up for a speedy 10-minute version of the classic overnight soak.  Procrastinators, celebrate!

Now we happened to be sitting on some of my favorite - cinnamon crunch bagels.  Yum...absolutely perfect for cinnamon french toast.  But you can use any type of bagel you have on hand.  Plain, strawberry, cinnamon raisin and poppyseed are all excellent as well.  Just be sure that they're a few days old and a bit dried out.  That part is essential.

Chopping the bagels is what changes this baked french toast from a 'night-before' to 'morning-of' dish.  By using small pieces of bread with a greater surface area, they absorb the milk and egg more quickly.  Like I said, this is a dish for the procrastinators out there.  I almost feel like I'm cheating by getting all the flavor without all the soak time.  (Man, it feels good to be a cheater...at least in this case.)

Since we're a two person household, a full casserole dish of baked french toast is way too much.  This recipe is the perfect alternative since you can make as much or as little as you want.  If you need to feed a family or would like leftovers that can be easily reheated throughout the week, double or triple the recipe and bake in a larger pan.  If you only need breakfast for two on a Saturday morning, use a bread pan or two small baking dishes for individual servings.  I love using my wee little Le Creuset dishes for these types of things.

If you're a french toast minimalist and prefer maple syrup to peaches, you can absolutely leave out the fresh fruit.  We very often substitute a brown sugar and nut topping praline topping which is equally delicious.  The end result in that case has a lovely golden top with toasty caramelized bits, as pictured below.  But for those of you were were drawn not only by the name of the dish but also the vibrant fruit pictured, let me speak of the limitless possibilities of this breakfast.  

While we love the praline topping, we also love this dish with fresh fruit.  My absolute favorite combination is peaches and hazelnuts.  The sweet peaches soften and release their juice while the nuts toast up to roasty perfection.  A little drizzle of agave nectar and you are in breakfast heaven.  But you can top this dish with any variety of fruit and nut you prefer.  Fresh berries and walnuts is another favorite in our household.  You could even use dried fruit or coconut flakes.  Just play around with your favorites and give it a go.  

Another bonus of mini dishes - no plates to wash!  Just dive right into that fruity, nutty and eggy bagel goodness and enjoy.

Baked Bagel French Toast (serves 2)
  • 2 bagels, slightly stale
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 c milk (we use fat free, but your preference)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • dash salt
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 tbs chopped hazelnuts or Praline Topping (recipe below)
Begin by chopping your bagels into small cubes about an inch in size (no need to be uniform here, folks).  In a medium bowl, add the eggs and egg whites and beat lightly.  Add the milk, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, then whisk together to combine.  (If you want a little sweeter toast, you could add a tablespoon of sugar at this time, too.)  

Grease your baking dish and fill with bagel cubes.  Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bagels and set aside.  Let soak for 10-15 minutes until most of the mixture is absorbed.

While bagels are soaking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and slice your peaches.  When the bagels are ready to bake, top with the peaches, hazelnuts or praline topping.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bread has puffed up and is slightly golden where exposed.  Serve with maple syrup or agave nectar.

Healthy Praline Topping
  • 2 tbs Smart Balance Light
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • dash or two of nutmeg
  • 2 tbs nuts (walnuts and hazelnuts are popular here)
Combine the smart balance, brown sugar and spices in a bowl.  Mix together well.  Chop the nuts and mix into the butter mixture.  Spread over the top of the bagel french toast just before baking.

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