Virginia Willis Blog

Derby Y’all: French Toast Casserole with Bourbon Crème Anglaise

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

This week was y’all filled. Seriously y’all filled. I was a guest on Paula Deen’s Best Dishes on Saturday and Monday on Food Network. And, the May issue of her magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen has a feature on me with my recipe for French Toast Casserole. She was really, really nice. We had a blast. She called me a “hell of a chef” and said “I could put my shoes beside her stove or under her table any day.” Nice!

This recipe is great for breakfast, brunch, and I will also be featuring it as a dessert this week at May-Gration, a fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts hosted by the Blue Heron in Sunderland, Massachusetts. I’m thrilled to be a part of this. It’s a North-South thing, featuring recipes from my book and tasty morsels from owners Chef Deborah Snow and Manager Barbara White. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts distributes approximately 6.4 million pounds of food to more than 100,000 people in the community every year. Click on May-Gration above to check it out.

So, check out this month’s issue of Cooking with Paula Deen. Give my French Toast Casserole a try for breakfast, brunch, or even as dessert. It’d be a great make-ahead dessert for a Kentucky Derby Party served with Bourbon Crème Anglaise. (How often to do you get to say bourbon and breakfast in the same paragraph? Hmm.)

Speaking of bourbon. I got to meet Parker Beam earlier this month at a bourbon tasting at a conference. That’s right, BEAM, as in related to Jim BEAM. His ding-dang ancestor INVENTED bourbon in Kentucky. He’s now the master distiller at Evan Williams. I was in the presence of greatness.

And, yes, I got his autograph. 😉

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Master Distiller Parker Beam and Virginia Willis

PS Couple of blogs about my recent event at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham if you want to check them out: www.localtable.net/blogs/roben and www.ingredientsinc.net

 

French Toast Casserole with Bourbon Crème Anglaise

When my sister and I were young, our favorite mornings were when Mama would prepare French toast for breakfast. The smell of butter, kissed with cinnamon, combined with the heady scent of sizzling egg was a most welcome greeting as we bounded down the stairs. For breakfast, this version is made the night before, so you won’t find yourself camped in front of a hot griddle in the early morning, groggy and in need of caffeine. The next morning, remove it from the fridge to take the chill off. Grab a cup of coffee and pop it in the oven. By the time the table is set, the family is assembled, and you’re ready for your second cup, breakfast is ready. Brioche and challah are yeast breads, rich with egg and butter, and make superlative French toast.

For dessert, make it early in the day, or even a day ahead. It's bread and eggs, y'all. We're not solving life's mysteries, and nothing will "go wrong" if it's in the fridge for a day or so. Just remember to remove it from the fridge to take the chill off about 30 minutes before you cook it. Serve it warm or room temperature.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 loaf brioche or challah, sliced
11/2 inches thick (about 11/2 pounds)
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar, for accompaniment
Sorghum, cane, or maple syrup, for accompaniment
Bourbon Crème Anglaise (makes 3 cups)
2 cups  whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon bourbon

Instructions

  1. Combine the melted butter and brown sugar in a baking dish. Arrange the bread slices in the dish. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a bowl. Pour over the bread, letting it soak in. Top with the pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Let the chilled casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  3. Bake until browned and set, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly. Sift over confectioners’ sugar. Serve hot or warm with sorghum, cane, or maple syrup.
  4. For the Bourbon Crème Anglaise:
  5. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and water.
  6. In a saucepan, bring the milk almost to a boil over medium heat. In a second saucepan, blend together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt with a wooden spoon until thick and light (be careful not to make the mixture foamy). Mix in half the hot milk, then transfer the mixture to the other saucepan with the remaining milk and blend. Add the bourbon.
  7. Decrease the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring the custard until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and the mixture reaches 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat.
  8. Set a sieve over a large, clean bowl and pass the custard through the sieve.
  9. Place the bowl in the ice bath, and stir the custard until it has completely cooled. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Store the custard in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
http://blog.virginiawillis.com/2009/05/derby-yall-french-toast-casserole-with-bourbon-creme-anglaise/

Reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories
from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis, copyright ©
2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.
Photo credit: Ellen Silverman copyright 2008.

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6 Responses to “Derby Y’all: French Toast Casserole with Bourbon Crème Anglaise”

  1. Ray Overton

    This IS pure decadence…so I’m in of course! If I don’t make it tomorrow, I will next weekend. After that I’m sure I will be “blow’d up like a goat!” Just cut my leg off, it sounds so good! BTW, saw you on both PD shows. FANTASTIC!!! I plan to get the mag this week. Still cannot drive so that poses a prob. Luv ya honey! 😀

    Reply
  2. Joanna Palmer

    Hello Ms Willis,
    Thank you for posting your French Toast Casserole here in your blog so others can taste some of the delicious recipes from your wonderful book, Bon Appetit Y’All. As you know, several home cooks who post regularly on the Chowhound Home Cooking forum are cooking through the book. It has been calculated that more than 30 recipes have been cooked since the end of April and we aren’t finished yet! As far as I can tell all have been winners and many have been included in what we call “our rotation”, those recipes which will be cooked regularly for our family. This has been a fun and exciting adventure in southern cooking for all of us…. expecially for us northerners.

    Happy Derby Day to you,
    Gio

    Reply
  3. Beautiful. I plan to print copies of this recipe for husband and each daughter, in hopes that my Mother’s Day breakfast will center on Bon Appetit Y’all French Toast Casserole. Merci, Virginia!

    Reply

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