I’ve always been a big fan of breakfast. Especially a nice, leisurely breakfast. You know, complete with hot beverages, newspapers spread out everywhere, and lots of general lounging around. And what better for a breakfast such as this, than a deliciously hot, golden, pan of baked french toast, fresh out of the oven. Because I wasn’t joking about the lounging around part. Why stand over a stove, flipping toast on the griddle when you can just make the oven do all of your work for you? Let me just say, whoever invented oven french toast was a pure genius.
The other day, I had a craving for just such a breakfast. I was getting ready to french toastify, when I was struck with a genius idea. You see, for some reason, I’ve had baklava on the brain (I blame the huge jar of honey staring down at me every time I open up my spice cabinet). And while I love baklava, I was just not in the mood to fiddle around with phyllo dough. But then it struck me - baklava...in french toast form. Not only would it be far easier to pull off than actual baklava, but I could get away with eating it for breakfast. Sold.
Imagine - thick slices of challah bread, soaked in cinnamon honey custard, topped with a spiced walnut crumble, and baked until golden. And of course, finished with a generous drizzle of warm honey syrup to truly baklavize it. Fantastic? I think yes. And best of all, like most oven french toast, you can make the majority of it the night before. That’s right, slice up your bread, whisk up your custard, mix them together, and forget about it until morning. Then it’s just a quick spin with the food processor to whip up your walnut crumble, and 45 minutes later, you’re enjoying one pretty amazing breakfast. Throw in a cup of hot tea and a couple of perfectly ripe pears to round everything out, and that’s my kind of breakfast.
Baklava Baked French Toast
I made this with walnuts, since that’s the sort of baklava I’m used to making (okay, let’s be honest, I only had walnuts), but if one was feeling daring, pistachios would make a deliciously unique topping. Give it a try, and invite me over for brunch.
- 1 pound loaf challah bread, preferably stale, sliced into 1” thick slices
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 eggs
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup walnuts
- 4 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup honey
- ½ cup water
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
1. If your bread is not already stale, lay the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until they crisp up slightly. Or, if you plan ahead, you can leave the bread slices lying out on your kitchen counter overnight to help speed up the staling process.
2. Grease a 9x13 baking dish, and arrange bread slices in overlapping rows in the dish.
3. Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Pour over bread in pan, making sure all of the bread is well coated (it helps to push down on the bread with a spatula to help it soak up more of the custard).
4. Cover pan tightly with foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
5. After french toast has had time to chill and soak, remove from the fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. While oven heats, prepare the walnut crumble by combining the walnuts, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a food processor and pulsing until nuts are coarsely chopped (about 20-30 seconds).
7. Sprinkle walnut crumble mixture evenly atop the soaked bread, re-cover tightly with the foil, and place in the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake until top is golden brown and walnuts are toasty - about 25 minutes more.
8. While french toast bakes, prepare the syrup. Combine the honey, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick before serving. (hint: if you’re planning on a super lovely, lazy morning, you can make the syrup the night before, refrigerate it, and just re-warm in before serving)
9. When french toast has finished baking, remove from oven, cool slightly, then serve hot topped with honey syrup.