My 16- and 17-year old nieces flew in from New Mexico for their annual summer visit this week, and having them over is a great excuse to do things like sleep in until 9:00, watch chick flicks, and eat ice cream every day. This morning, they asked for french toast, which I love too, but never enjoy making. Since I've been cleaning up the kitchen several times a day while they're here, I decided to hunt down a baked variation that would be quick and easy to throw together.
I found this strata recipe on Epicurious that I adapted, using blackberries and orange instead of raspberries and lemon, and making the custard a little richer. They were impressed with how beautiful it looked and absoltuely loved it's delicious warming sweetness, and I was amazed how much better I like it than typical french toast.
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 loaf of whole grain bread with crust
1 1/2 pints fresh blackberries
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack positioned at the center. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 in. baking dish. Pour the maple syrup into the bottom of the dish - don't worry about evenly coating the surface. Cut the bread up into large cubes and scatter around the bottom with the blackberries.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, half & half, zest, and salt. Pour the custard over the cubes of bread and pop the baking dish into the oven. It'll need to bake 45 to 50 minutes. Look for a nice, puffy golden brown surface with no wet spots in the center. Let cool 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving with more drizzled maple syrup on top.