COOKING ADVENTURE #57: Orange Pecan French Toast Casserole
Nothing irritates me more than using a lame orange joke to open up a Cooking Adventure. But honestly, this is one of those few miracle times where nothing terrible happened during the adventure. It was a rare moment of complete euphoria, the delightful mixing and pouring, slicing, and baking that makes up this gorgeous French Toast recipe. Even when Matilda stepped up to bat to take on grating an orange, there was not one speck of treachery nestled behind her beady black eyes. I’m pleasantly surprised. And since this recipe made so much, it would be a fabulous gift to a loved one on Valentine’s Day! Mmm, yummy orange-flavored love. You know you’re excited.
Last year around this time, I did a french toast recipe that included some very sticky caramel and an accidental heaping amount of cinnamon. This year, I really wanted to try another breakfast recipe in the same vein but a little more on the fruity side. While browsing Pinterest specifically for French toast recipes, I came across this wonderful one from Holly Clegg which was posted on Key Ingredient. I was immediately hooked on the combination of the pecans and orange and decided that would be what I’d tackle. Also, the recipe seemed pretty easy to handle.
The first thing they have you do is measure out a cup of packed brown sugar and put it in a bowl. I spooned out my brown sugar into the measuring cup, making sure to get it all over the counter while I did so. I’m almost entirely sure that there is no proper way to measure sugar without getting it everywhere by accident. Oh well. Next, take 1/3 a stick of butter and melt it a little in the microwave. If you have time before hand, you can just leave it out until its room temperature instead. But, I rarely, if ever, plan ahead for these things. After I’d combined the butter with the brown sugar, I added the two tablespoons of corn syrup.
Corn syrup: it’s one of those things you keep in the pantry and use every once in a great while for a recipe. But you don’t necessarily expect to use it up quickly unless you have a recipe that calls for a great amount. I’ve used my light corn syrup on and off. I was surprised to discover that there was an expiration date on it. I suppose most everything has an expiration date but I was confused. Taking a cue from my own family who kept these kinds of things stored away at the top of cabinets when I was a kid (and never seemed to throw them away), I figured that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if I continued to use it. I even checked online to make sure and there were more than enough people who said that it would be just fine, possibly just a little discolored. Mine wasn’t.
After mixing these ingredients together with a whisk, I prepared my 13 x 9″ stoneware baking pan. A few weeks ago, I tried a little lemon bar recipe that, unfortunately was a complete failure. Not only did the lemon bars not set up, they completely glued themselves to the bottom of the stoneware pan. It took many hours of hot water, pan scrapers, paper towels, and scraps of sanity just to clean it out. This time, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have to do this again. I took some tin foil and lined the pan so that I wouldn’t have to deal with chiseling anything out of it. Then, I poured the thick mixture into it and made sure that it coated the entire bottom by spreading it around with a wooden spatula. Next, I sprinkled a bag of crushed pecans over the brown sugar mixture so that it was evenly coated.
The next step to the recipe was all about making the milk/egg batter to pour over the bread. In another bowl, I combined 1 cup of orange juice (without pulp… because that stuff is gross), 1/2 cup milk, 3 tbsp. sugar (which, yes, spilled everywhere), 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. I also had to add 1 tsp of grated orange rind. I pulled a nice big orange from the fridge. My eyes drifted up to Matilda, staring at me with a knowing glance from on top of the stove.
Yes, I haven’t used Matilda the grater in a long while. Last time, I believe I injured myself on her and then chucked her head long into the sink. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit too well with her and probably inspired that mutiny last week with the can opener. But, while I waited for her to do something terrible this time, she didn’t. The orange grated nicely and there was no blood or throwing of kitchen utensils. I ended up adding two tsp. of orange rind because I love the flavor of orange and thought it could use a little more.
Now, we add the eggs. This was an especially different recipe than any I’ve ever used with French toast because it requires three egg whites and two eggs. I added the first two eggs without a problem. Then, precariously holding my cracked eggs over the glass bowl, I tried to keep the yolk flip flopping between the egg shell halves as I got the rest of the white out. Thankfully, I didn’t have a problem here, nor did I manage to cover myself in egg. I stirred all of the ingredients together with the whisk and turned my attention to the bread. I’d picked up a nice French bread loaf from the store, long and with a nice thick crust. I used my spectacular green bread knife to cut thick angled pieces up. Then, I set them into the brown sugar mixture in the pan. I had to turn them so that they would all fit and managed to get about 11 pieces in. Then, I poured the egg batter over the bread.
I slid the baking dish into the fridge to allow the bread to soak in all of the flavors overnight. I was supposed to have done that with last years recipe and forgot. In the morning, I pulled out the pan and flipped over each bread piece so that the more soggy side was on top. Then, I placed the baking dish in the oven at 350 for 35 minutes and waited. It didn’t take long for the smell of orange to rise up out of the oven and over take the apartment. Orange is such a wonderful scent, immediately making a claustrophobic apartment in the middle of winter feel a little less stale.
Finally, the French toast came out of the oven sizzling. The warm brown sugar mix had melted to form a syrup on the bottom which I drizzled over a couple pieces. Then, I cut some orange slices for garnish and settled down for breakfast. The outside of the French toast was crispy and the inside nice and soft. The pecans added a great crunch to it and the added orange flavoring from the extra rind was a wonderful compliment. All in all, I would definitely make this again. I also like that it made a lot and that I’ve been able to have it all week while trapped in my apartment during the snowpocalypse.
For Valentine’s Day this week, I’ll be making this amazing Three Herb Steak recipe. I intend to spend the evening with this steak, a glass of sparkling cider, and “Pitch Perfect”. Oh, and I’m going to wear a red dress that I bought and haven’t used for any occasion thus far. I want to dress up for one evening, even if its just for me…what can I say?
Stay tuned! And be on the look out for Inspiration Through Music later today!