You know you cook differently when you have company. It’s okay guys; the secret is out. Just admit it. No more nonsense. You’re not fooling anyone by waving off the inquisitive compliments of your friends and relatives, “Oh my goodness, this is so delicious. Do you make food like this all the time?” No, is the answer. Only when you’re here, and I feel an alpha-dog-like need to prove my culinary prowess. But, “Aw, psh, it’s nothing,” you object, turning your head away so they can’t see your satisfied smirk.
It’s nothing? Yeah right. You know you rummaged around your neglected notecard filer for your grandmother’s secret recipes, flipped through your cookbooks for your most trusted dishes, and paged through dozens – no, hundreds – of food blogs online in the days leading up to the company’s arrival. You mentally planned out the meals for every day, arranging the best ones for the last few days, so you’d have some tasty leftovers to shovel into your mouth as you slump on the couch in exhaustion/depression after everyone has left. You stocked the fridge and freezer ahead of time, so when everyone arrived you could casually offer them exactly the beverage you know they’ll be wanting. “Caffeine-free diet Dr. Pepper, anyone? Sure thing, we just had it in the fridge.”
Breakfast is always the trickiest. You can’t just offer cereal every day. That would be pathetic and not at all festive. You don’t even like cereal enough to wish that upon anyone else. But you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to whip egg whites – quietly, quietly now – for waffles, nor do you want to permeate everyone’s clothes with the lingering smell of bacon and eggs more than one morning out of the week. You can make pancakes, but only once. Ummm, what else? You need something that can be ready when the first person gets up.
Enter baked french toast. It’s the solution to your problems. It’s easy, tasty, but impressive nevertheless. But there’s still that syrup dilemma They’ll always be one person who wants real maple syrup, so you’ll have to get that. Then, what kind of artificial syrup do you get? The low-sugar? Sugar-free with aspartame? Ick. Butter flavor or not? Stupid American grocery stores with endless choices. They make daily quandaries even more difficult.
So, enter fruit-on-top baked french toast. It really is the remedy. It has all the ease and flavor of regular baked french toast, but doesn’t require syrup. The fruit on top – be it blueberries or peaches or whatever else is in season – melts into its own delightfully gooey berry compote or roasts to lightly caramelized perfection with just enough sweetness to satisfy even the most sugar-crazed child but not so much that people begin to wonder if you made dessert for breakfast. Throw everything in the pan the night before, set your oven to turn on nice and early, and enjoy a blissful night’s sleep. And when you awake with a start early in the morning, panicking about breakfast being ready for your guests, the warm smell of baking fruit will lull you back to sleep. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Got guests coming to stay for the Fourth of July? Give it a try!
Fruit-on-Top Baked French Toast
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3-5 slices of sandwich bread
- ~2 cups blueberries or other fruit
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
[Makes enough for one 8 x 8 pan. You’re going to need more than that for company.]
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease an 8 x 8-inch (or 9 x 9?) baking pan. Lay the slices of bread in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.
In a small bowl beat together the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, nutmeg, 5 spice, and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Be sure that all the bread gets some egg mixture on it. You may have to move them around with your hands a bit to be sure.
Spread the blueberries (or sliced peaches or whatever fruit) in a single layer on top of the bread. Sprinkle cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly on top.
Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes, until the toast part has puffed and the fruit has softened (or burst, as in the case of the blueberries). Enjoy warm!
[To any friends and family members who have ever stayed at our house: the above post was written entirely in jest and should not be taken as a reflection of reality.]