I fear this blog is becoming my excuse for making carb-heavy weekend breakfasts on a weekly basis.
This time, though, my excuse was a quickly hardening crusty loaf that took up altogether too much real estate on the countertop, and there wasn’t even room for a bun in the freezer. My neighbour had been chatting her overnight French toast up on Facebook, and thus the seed was planted. (Aside: I also appear to be stockpiling frozen blueberries, for all those smoothies I haven’t been making lately.) I baked this the day before we left for Seattle, and brought a bowl of leftovers cold with us when we left the house before dawn, eating it in the car in the Tim Horton’s drive-thru in lieu of take-out.
Essentially this is less-sweet bread pudding; the fact that the bread is torn or cut into chunks before soaking in an eggy bath classifies it as such. Not that it matters. What’s in a name? If you want it to be dessert, call it bread pud. If it’s destined for breakfast, it’s French toast. Any bread will do, even leftover burger or hot dog buns, and stale cinnamon buns are a revelation. (You can even mix and match to get rid of all those bread ends and heels that may be cluttering up your breadbox.)
Most cream cheese-laden overnight bread pudding/French toasts are made with blops of plain cream cheese, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but its tang seems more pronounced in a sweet dish. With every bite I expect it to taste more like cheesecake, and so this time I sweetened the cream cheese – just a little. It makes the whole thing more cheesecake-y and less bagel-y.
I tend to underestimate my quantity of eggs and milk every time I make something that requires the filling of a baking dish with chunks of stale bread; they’re absorbent little suckers. So I cranked it up, but made sure some of the crusty bits were still poking up like craggy, toasty icebergs through the surface. Some take care of these bits with a pour of melted butter; I left them alone. Either way.
I was just about to simmer blueberries in pure maple syrup until they burst, as is my norm, but at the last minute I figured I’d give the berry sauce a go; it’s incredibly simple – whisk the sugar and cornstarch together to get rid of any lumps (I cut down on the cornstarch, not wanting that thick, glossy canned fruit filling texture), then bring it to a simmer with water and berries until it thickens to a brilliant Barney hue. You could use juice in place of the water, or swap any kind of juicy fruit – raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches or plums.
The syrup-sauce doubles easily and keeps well in the fridge; I brought leftovers the following weekend to pour over waffles at brunch, and all was devoured. It has more character than I expected from something made out of sugar and cornstarch; you could dial it up further by adding a cinnamon stick, strip of orange zest or sprig of thyme.