Inspired by cranberry orange upside down cake, I wanted a good easy hot breakfast for holidays mornings such as Christmas or Thanksgiving when I don't have much time for a big breakfast. Baking French toast is an easy and delicious way to make it without having to stand over the stove while cooking each slice. The toppings go into the bottom of the pan with the bread and custard on top. To serve, simply scoop out spoonfuls and turn over onto plates. The fruit and juices run down and around the plate, soaking the bread in its goodness. It doesn't look like much on the plate when everything dumps over, but the spices and the flavors of fresh cranberries, apples, and oranges will make up for its unassuming appearance.
Like many baked French toast recipes, this one requires an overnight resting time in the refrigerator so the bread can soak up some of the custard by morning. Pull the pan out of the frig while the oven preheats, then bake covered for about 40 min. You can remove the foil for the last few minutes to help brown and crisp the top layer of bread.
Cranberry Apple French Toast
- 2-½ to 3-quart oval casserole with tall sides (like a Pyrex French White casserole)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
- zest and juice of 1 orange, divided
- 1 medium to large apple, chopped (or thinly sliced)
- 1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed
- 1 loaf challah or French bread, cut into ½-inch (1.3 cm) thick slices
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups half & half
- Melt the butter and pour into the casserole. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts (optional), orange zest, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Press along the bottom to form a kind of crust.
- Arrange the apples and cranberries over the butter and sugar mixture.
- Arrange the bread slices in a way that covers the fruit. Drizzle half the remaining orange juice over the bread.
- Whisk together the beaten eggs and half & half, and pour half of it over the bread.
- Make another layer of bread, drizzle remaining orange juice and then pour on the remaining egg mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C. Remove plastic wrap, cover with foil, and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove the foil for the last few minutes of cooking to brown and crisp the top layer of bread. Scoop out large spoonfuls and turn over onto serving plates.