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.
Blueberry Cheesecake Overnight French Toast
Adapted from/inspired by Merry and a few other places…
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 8 oz. (250 g) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
1-2 Tbsp. sugar or maple syrup
half a big loaf of crusty bread, cut into cubes
1/2-1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and salt. In a small dish, stir together the cream cheese and sugar.
Cut or tear the bread into cubes into a buttered casserole dish, stopping halfway to add a few dollops of the cream cheese mixture and a handful of blueberries. Add the rest of the bread and scatter with blueberries. Top with blops of the remaining cream cheese.
Pour the egg mixture evenly overtop; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours, or overnight.
Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before baking, as you preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and set. Let sit for a few minutes before serving warm, with blueberry sauce or maple syrup. Serves 8.
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup blueberries
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and cornstarch until there are no more lumps. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer; cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and bubbles.
Continue to cook for a few more minutes, until the berries burst. Serve warm with the French toast, or cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.