Well, it ain't the healthiest thing I make, despite my best efforts, but a once-in-a-while, show-someone-you-love-them digestible demonstration of that fact, expressed in a whole lotta "I can't believe how amazing this is." Let's assume, nevertheless, that we are using the best quality ingredients available for this somewhat decadent dish, as many organics as possible and using this opportunity to make any nutritious enhancements, such as including flax seeds for the great fats or blueberries for their antioxidants, top with yogurt and raw honey for lots of health benefits and so on. Limitless.
Literally, the playful French name means "lost bread", a simple baked approach to the miracle of French Toast where the bread scraps (or layered/tiered slices) are covered and soaked in the egg custard, usually a dip/dredge sort of process which is then seared, versus this (easier?) style which yields something more like a bread pudding. Here in 'Merica, we often just call it Baked French Toast.
BONUS: this casserole format is perfect for a pot-luck brunch. (a real Crowd Pleaser, especially depending on how you embellish. I say "Wow 'em." ;)
While I believe that the name derives from the image of the bread being "lost" in the Egg-y Goodness, I also like the idea that the [sometimes stale] bread used would otherwise have been lost to "la poubelle" (le garbage) and what a delicious way to prevent that, eh? (I just adore reducing waste, don't you?!)
Another thing I love about this baked treat is the creativity it allows for, of course; anything you can imagine topping the usual slices with can be mixed-in, not to mention ENDLESS other possibilities if you consider going the savory route, alternatively. (um, did someone say "fromage"??)
So, below you will find a Basic Template (really just some gentle guidance) for playing with your "pain" and my disclaimer here is that you (and the kids!) can truly PLAY with the variables and adjust each time you make it as you determine what kind of density you like best. Like mine, it may be different every time, just being a "culinary canvas" for whatever you have on hand. The custard ratio can vary, partly depending on what kind of milk or what type of bread you use, how rich you want this luscious vehicle for your toppings to be, ETC...
To start, cube or slice your [aging] loaf and place in a Big Ass Bowl. Add chopped fresh and/or dried fruit, nuts, cheese(!), really any Tasty Goodies; maybe chocolate chips, pecans and sliced banana? or how 'bout fresh herbs, sauteed veggies like mushrooms, spinach, Swiss cheese and crumbled bacon? Whoa. Combine your faves and consider what may better serve as a topping/finish/garnish*.
The custard should be mostly eggs, mixed with your choice of milk. (more below)
I happened to have some egg nog on hand, sooooo... :p
Now for the Spice(s) of Life: go traditional with apple pie sorta' flavors or get crazy with some zing! If going savory, try Mediterranean or Mexican seasonings...
Needless to say, this is wonderful served with a lil' whipped cream.
Of course, a nice whiskey or rum sauce isn't too bad, either, especially with a banana theme.(oyea!!)
A few T.I.K. Tips:
- When I make this I use a large baking dish where a medium to small loaf of bread will easily fill it so be sure to consider this when adding any "extras" since you can make it as chunky as you like. I treat it like I do a scramble: sometimes the base is just a Cohesive Element, barely holding together an array of Delicious Goodies, for me those being mostly fruits or veggies and here, some kind of wonderful, ideally hearty, bread. BTW, super crusty = not so good here
- A Fun Idea is soaking beforehand any dried fruit you may use. Here's where you can get fancy with a liquor or interesting liquid like some kind of tea, maybe? Chai is an amazing infusion for lots of desserts, perfect with apples, pears. How 'bout some coffee for a Mexican Mocha sumthin'?! "Fantastique", once again.
- Cheese. Can we talk for just a moment about that element that Some of Us can't resist using even just a hint of? A couple of Slightly Shocking Suggestions for either sweet or savory, depending what you've got going on, of course: goat cheese, blue cheese, any number of Swiss cheeses, cream cheese (cubed), parmesan, something smokey? I mean, I don't think Most People need much convincing to incorporate a favorite (Non-?) Dairy Delight into something hot and yummy, right? Again, think about melty bombs inside vs. chewy topping...you decide. (but if you need consultation, just ask me!)
- The Custard is KEY. Using the best eggs you can get, ideally from a friend or local farmer's coop, blend at least 6-8 (for a big, share-with-everyfreakingbody baking dish) with about half that amount of a flavorful milk of any kind, possibly something decadent like a big ol' splash of cream or coconut milk, maybe a bit of an extract of your choice and a few pinches of some appropriate spices for your theme or flavor profile. (oo, there's some good culinary lingo for you to impress your friends with.)
Speaking of flavor, don't forget a wee pinch of good salt, even for a sweet bake (more for savory obviously), which will help to enhance and "round-out" the whole Taste Experience. For a large savory bake, a minimum of a heaping teaspoon of salt will be necessary, less if you include salty ingredients like dried meats or sausage or pre-cooked and seasoned veggies, capers or olives or salty cheeses like feta.
- *Garnish is where the Magic happens, in my opinion, kinda' like how the shoes bring the outfit together, you dig? Accent, complement, beautify and think about color and texture in addition to flavor. Toast, chop, melt, drizzle, sprinkle... Just DO Something Cool, take it over the Edge of the Expected. Be inspired. Make it Daringly Artful. This is your canvas, afterall. ;*
Hey, thanks so much for reading; I hope you enjoyed these ideas and will run with them, just not with sharp objects. ("Really? did she just say that??")
I wish you luck on your next Culinary Adventure and invite your questions and comments.