My mother planted this little seed of an idea when she was visiting the other day - she came across a few recipes after I had made my best ever French toast for breakfast, and I just knew we had to try it. This just has my style of cooking written all over it.
The idea is basically like a baked French Toast, or a bread pudding, but made personal size by cooking in muffin tins. Sounds perfect for a weekday kid breakfast - especially because you know I always make extra, so how great will it be to pop a few of these out of the freezer for a quick breakfast?
Now if you've paid attention, you might know that I do my French toast a little different from a lot of people. I like it really rich and eggy. Some recipes will tell you to just dip and move on - but not me, I say SOAK it. I want that rich custard to soak all the way to the center. So that's another thing I liked about this idea - it soaks up all that goodness into the bread. I also think French toast should be rich - I'm talking eggs and real cream kind of rich. My recipe is mostly eggs, with a little milk and/or cream, versus some other recipes you read have a lot more milk and less eggs. I like the richness that all the eggs give, plus I like that it packs some extra nutrients and protein into what seems like just an indulgent meal.
In my usual style - I read a few different recipes online, and then made this up my way. So it's a combination of some other techniques, but adapted to the way I like to make my French toast.
Here's what I did - for two dozen small-ish muffins (I think my muffin tins are a little smaller than what a normal sized muffin would be these days - these used to be standard muffins, but I think muffins have gotten bigger. I've had these muffin tins for at least 20 years, and muffin papers used to fit well in them, but now when I line them with standard muffin papers I have to cram them in a little).
- About half a loaf of really good bread. I use Challah. Some recipes call for French bread. I like a rich bread. Cut into small cubes, or torn into small pieces.
- 18-20 eggs (I used 20, but had a little bit of custard leftover)
- about a cup of heavy cream. Or if this bothers you use half & half, or whole milk. But I love what cream does here, and we're making something decadent, so why cut corners?
- about 3 teaspoons of vanilla (real vanilla please)
- about 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup of good maple syrup. Depends on how sweet you want these. If you plan on serving with syrup, then I would add less, but I wanted them to taste sweet enough without any extra dressing - I wanted them to be eaten by hand. Also depends on the type of syrup you use - you could use a really good dark amber maple syrup, and use less.
- a little extra cinnamon, and sugar if you like, for dusting on top.
I was in a bit of a hurry when I made these, otherwise I would have added more stuff. When I make Sunday morning French toast I also like to add some orange zest and a little cognac or other liquor - just to completely put it over the top.
Coat the muffin tins generously with butter. Stuff each tin full with bread. Mix together all the ingredients of the custard, and start pouring slowly into the muffin tins. Do a little at a time, let it soak up, then pour a little more, and keep going around like this until they are all full. I also used a fork to push the bread down into the custard a little. Just keep pushing and pouring until you've got as much in there as you'll think they'll hold. Sprinkle the top with some extra cinnamon, and a little sugar if you like. Then cover and let sit overnight (or for a least a few hours). I made mine before bed, so I could cook in the morning.
In the morning - set the oven to 350-375. My oven runs a little cool, so I did 375, but if you're sure your oven is right on, I think 350 would be good. Bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on your oven and whether your pans were cold out of the fridge or had sat out for a while. I set my timer to 25 minutes, but ended up letting them go to 35.
That's it. Pop them out and serve. The end result was even more amazing than I had envisioned. These are eggy and rich. They are more rich even than my French Toast - there is a lot more egg per serving. They really are like a cross between a French Toast and a Bread Pudding - moist and eggy like bread pudding, but still solid enough that you can eat it by hand. Perfect.
My one little complication was that they stuck to my pans, even with a lot of butter. But these pans are old, and everything sticks to them. I need to get some nonstick pans. Or I bet some nice silicone muffin cups would work well.
See if you can eat just one. I couldn't.