This Apple French Toast Casserole is made with fresh apples– cooked down and softened into a chunky applesauce– dried dates, raisins, nuts, and chunks of French bread all tossed in a custard sauce and baked to perfection.
Have you ever been assigned a food to bring to a party? As in– handed a recipe and told ‘bring this?’ Awhile back, I was helping organize a brunch party, and that’s exactly what happened. I was supposed to make a baked pumpkin French toast– and, of course, I did. As excited as I was to try it, I was a little teensy bit skeptical.
You see, I ADORE French Toast. I’m convinced (and I’m pretty sure that I’m right) that regular French toast, made with a thick French loaf of bread, is just about the best breakfast on the planet. How can you improve on perfection? Why try?
Once the smell of baked fall yumminess started wafting through my entire apartment, however, I was sold. I immediately decided that baked French toast was brilliant– and then I promptly forgot all about it.
Recently, however, with the fall air returning and gorgeous seasonal apples showing up in the stores– I remembered the tasty baked breakfast, and decided to make an apple-icious version. This Apple French Toast Casserole is made with fresh apples– cooked, seasoned, and mashed into a chunky applesauce– as well as dried dates, raisins, nuts, chunks of French bread, and a custard sauce.
Why, you might ask, would you bake French toast instead of simply frying it in a pan? For one thing– it’s more portable this way. If you’re taking breakfast or brunch to someone– this is will be simpler than toting over a frying pan and all your ingredients, or trying to transport pre-made French toast.
The other, and maybe even better, reason to make baked French toast is to incorporate more delicious ingredients. Sure– you could pan fry French toast, then stuff it with the chunky applesauce, dates, and nuts– but this is easier. Baked French toast has a different texture than traditional French toast (it’s more like bread pudding), and will easily and deliciously soak up heavy, wet ingredients like applesauce.
To make this Apple French Toast Casserole– start with about half a loaf of slightly stale French bread. If your bread is still soft and fresh, you can stick it in the oven under the broiler for about 2 minutes to dry it out. Next, cut your bread up into cubes, and line an 8″x8″ pan with bread. Use enough bread so that the bottom of your pan is covered and about 1 1/2″ deep. Mix together the milk, eggs, and vanilla, and then pour it over the bread.
While your bread soaks– make applesauce. Dice the apples, and cook them with a little bit of water over medium-high in a covered pan. The apples should break down in about 10 minutes– the mixture doesn’t need to be smooth, a chunky sauce is fine.
Add the spices and sugar to your applesauce, and then pour the applesauce over the bread. Add the dates, raisins, and nuts, and then gently stir to mix it all up. Bake until the top is golden, and then serve with fruit toppings and honey or syrup. Take it to brunch, serve it to company, or enjoy it all for yourself!
Apple French Toast Casserole
- 1/2 french loaf (slightly stale preferred), cut into 1 cubes
- 1/4 cup dried dates and raisins
- 1 cup milk OR milk substitute
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 apples, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground clove
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/4 cup crushed pecans or walnut, optional
- To Serve: honey, syrup, and/or fruit
- Preheat oven to 450º F.
- Place bread cubes in an 8x8 pan. The bottom of the pan should be covered, and the bread should be about 1 1/2 inches deep. Sprinkle raisins and dates evenly over the bread.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix milk, eggs, and vanilla, and pour over bread.
- Meanwhile, add apples and 1/2 cup of water to a medium saucepan and cover. Heat on medium-high until apples begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Crush apples with a fork, and add sugar, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Add more sugar to taste if desired. Pour applesauce over bread. Add raisins, dates, and nuts to the bread mixture, then stir gently with a fork to incorporate it through the bread.
- Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden.
- Serve warm with honey or syrup, and top with fruit
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days in the fridge.
Recipe adapted from: Minimalist Baker