Crème Brûlée French Toast

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We’re getting pretty good at this brunch thing. I wanted to host one more before the end of the year, and it was a good excuse to get the biggest Christmas tree we could fit in our place. It’s our first! And not our last. Why was I so cheap the other years? A tall, fat tree twinkling with lights in our living room is so worth the effort.

So is this baked French toast, which doesn’t ask too much of you and can be made the day before you want to serve it. It’d be great on Christmas morning, and if you’re already preparing one baking dish it’s not much more to make two if you need to feed a crowd.

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You melt butter, sugar, and maple syrup together (sounded better to me than corn syrup) and pour it into a baking dish. Top with bread and custard and let it chill in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

A dusting of powdered sugar and raspberries makes this really pretty. The maple syrup is already baked into the dish so you don’t even need to add more. Serve it with thick-cut bacon and this is a great holiday breakfast.

We also mixed up this easy spiced sangria with citrus to go with the toast. We served it in a punch bowl, and it went over really well. Not a drop left.

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crème brûlée french toast

Gourmet magazine printed this recipe in 1998 after a reader who stayed at the Inn at Sunrise Point in Camden, Maine requested it. On Epicurious, the recipe has more than 500 reviews. It’s easy, low maintenance, and a total winner if you have guests over for breakfast. It’s just as easy to make two baking dishes of the French toast, and you can use challah bread, a country loaf, or a French baguette. I even filled in some spots with regular whole wheat sandwich bread. Leave the bread slices out the day before to let them get a little stale or lightly toast the bread. This baked French toast is sweet and perfect for a special occasion. The brûlée layer underneath the toast makes extra maple syrup unnecessary. Serve with bacon.

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 loaf challah bread (or a 9-inch round country loaf) cut into six 1-inch thick slices from the center of the bread

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

zest of 1/2 an orange

raspberries and powdered sugar, for serving

Melt butter with brown sugar and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth, then pour in a 13-by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange bread slices in the baking dish in one layer. It’s okay if the bread overlaps to fit.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, bourbon, salt, and orange zest in a large bowl until combined. Pour evenly over bread. Chill mixture, covered, for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Heat oven to 350° F while you let the bread sit on the counter and come to room temperature.

Bake uncovered in the center of the oven until the bread puffs up and the edges are golden, about 35 minutes.

Sprinkle French toast with powdered sugar and fresh raspberries. Serve immediately with bacon.

Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Gourmet magazine via epicurious.

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