Brunch. A nice word made even nicer with baked French toast and berries. It is bursting with exquisite berry flavor, especially when served with its joyful berry compote. And best yet, it can be made hours before and popped into the oven last-minute.
With this recipe in hand, go ahead! Invite your favorite moms over on Sunday, or set up a fun friends brunch. This pretty dish is also perfect for upcoming baby or bridal showers, or a just-because celebration breakfast treat. Or, why not make it with kids the night before to let the anticipation of a special breakfast build in their dreams?
Where I live, we'll be flooded in the best berries in the world in a couple of months. While we wait, we home cooks reach to the back of our freezers where last year's ripe bounty is preserved. I feel especially accomplished when use the last bag of icy blueberries or blackberries just in time for the new harvest.
Making Baked Berry French Toast
Make-ahead berry French toast is perfect with any of the berries-- straw, blue, black, Marion, huckle, rasp, or a colorful mix. Use frozen berries, or fresh. A note on berries-- it is worth waiting for peak-of-season varieties for the full flavor experience. Unless it is summer berry season where you live, quality brands of frozen berries will taste better than less-than-ripe store bought.
The quick custard is customizable, too. Use cream if you have it for the most silky texture, but any dairy or non-dairy milk will work well. Just follow the modification outlined in the recipe below. Spotlight the berry-burst flavor with a simple vanilla custard, or try adding add grated lemon or orange zest (2-3 teaspoons) for complexity. Or maybe a little cinnamon or cardamom (1/2 - 1 teaspoon.)
Assemble and bake the French toast right away, or assemble it the night before you plan to serve it. The bread soaks up the custard, integrating into one lovely dish with soft cakelike insides and crispy edges and top once baked. It easily cuts into beautiful serving squares. For best make-ahead results, stir the berries into the bread/custard mixture just before popping it into the oven.
Other Delicious Recipes to Round Out Your Brunch Menu
You'll already have the oven on, so Oven-Baked Bacon is the way to go. Try this method.
112 ozbaguette or french-style bread(one slender baguette)
½cupwhipping creamOR ⅓ cup milk or non-dairy milk
1teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓cupchopped almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts
2tablespoonsDemerara sugar or coarse baking sugar
1½cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varietiesCut strawberries into quarters
For the Berry Compote
2cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varieties
⅓ to ½cupssugardepending on the ripeness of your berries
3tablespoons cold water
1tablepsooncorn starch or rice flour
For the Berry French Toast
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter or spray a 7" x 11" baking dish.
Cut the bread into ¾" pieces. There is no need to trim the crusts unless the bottom crust is quite browned, in which case trim the dark part away before cubing the loaf. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream (or lesser amount of milk), vanilla, salt and th optional orange zest and/or cinnamon, if using, until the ingredients ar thoroughly combined and bubbly. Fold in the bread cubes turn over and over until th read is thoroughly soaked in the custard mixture. Set aside 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until all of the custard has been absorbed into the bread. If making ahead, cover tightly and place in the bread/custard mixture in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.
Just before baking gently stir the frozen or fresh berries into the bread mixture. If using frozen berries, do not thaw in advance. Tip the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with nuts and sugar. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 18-22 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before cutting into squares.
For the Berry Compote
While the French toast is in the oven, combine the berries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over meduim heat until the berries start to soften and break down, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Stir the cornstarch or rice flour into the cold water, and slowly drizzle it into the cooked berries, stirring constantly. Allow to cook another 3-4 minutes until thickened. Keep warm while the French toast is ready to serve.
When ready to serve, spoon some of the compote onto individual srving plates. Place a square of baked French toast on top, and serve.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.
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