According to Apicius, Pan Dulcis, a dish of bread soaked in milk, and sometimes eggs, and then fried in oil or butter existed as early as the age of the Roman Empire. However, the modern dish that we know as French toast, got its name in 1724 from an innkeeper in Albany, New York named Joseph French.
This recipes combines all the custardy goodness of traditional French toast, but it’s kissed by pecan pie. Because it uses only simple ingredients, the quality of the ingredients is even more important. Use fresh, organic eggs and the highest quality, organic dairy products you can find. Make sure that you put it together the night before so that the bread and the custard have time to consummate their marriage. This recipe was adapted from the French toast recipe from Cooks Illustrated, one of my favorite cooking resource.
16 oz Ciabatta, torn into 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
8 fresh, large, organic eggs
2 ½ cups organic whole milk
1 ½ cups organic heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ⅓ cups packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 cups pecans, chopped coarse
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and bake torn bread about 25 minutes. Let the bread cool completely.
Generously coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 1 TBSP butter and put the dried bread into the dish. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined and then whisk in the milk, cream, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and gently submerge dried bread pieces. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Stir the remaining 8 TBSP butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup together until smooth, then stir in the pecans. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight.
Sprinkle topping over casserole, breaking up any large pieces by hand. Bake casserole at 350 degrees on middle rack of oven for one hour or until puffy and golden. Cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving so that it is warm and not hot. Serve with warmed organic maple syrup heated with butter to taste.
P.S. I am working on a chocolate version of this and will get back to you soon with that 🙂