When I began writing this column over 10 years ago, I had grand illusions of people sending me their favorite recipes and me trying them.
What I found was that people are normally pretty guarded with their best dishes, and even more so, everyone wanted me to tell them something new to try instead of the other way around.
Since then, I have amassed quite the Pinterest page of recipes, a notebook of magazine cutouts and a large collection of saved tutorial videos that I source each week for my inspiration.
But for this week’s recipe, I didn’t have to go out looking. It found me.
Every summer, I get the opportunity to direct a short kids camp at Camp Mennoscah, and for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years, a wonderful group of ladies has volunteered to man the kitchen during our little camp.
This summer, on the last morning, they served us a fabulous blueberry French toast casserole for breakfast, and as I came through the chow line, they teased me a bit.
“Are we going to see this one in the paper?”
“If you send it to me, you will,” I told them.
So Marla emailed it to me right after camp, letting me know that her way of spicing up the recipe was to add the blueberries.
Well, over a month later, I finally had time to give this a try, only I used fresh cherries, since that’s what I had on hand. It was still delicious.
This original recipe comes from the blog “Fresh April Flours,” was tweaked by Marla Gillmore and the rest of the amazing kitchen crew, and received some more cinnamon in my version below.
Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole
8 to 9 cups stale bread, cut into one-inch cubes
2 cups fresh fruit, cut in bite-sized pieces (I used cherries)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 rounded teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Prepare a nine-by-13-inch casserole dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
Spread all the bread cubes and fresh fruit evenly into the dish and set it aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and whisk well until everything is well incorporated. (My brown sugar got a bit lumpy. If that happens even after lots of mixing, don’t sweat it. Just evenly distribute the lumps on the next step, and it’ll be fine.)
Evenly pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes in the dish and cover it with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or a lid. Refrigerate overnight or for at least three hours.
To bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake, uncovered, for one hour or until the top is nicely browned and the custard is set.
Serve warm by itself, with some syrup, or even with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
I ended up making a half batch of this in an eight-inch casserole dish, and it turned out great. It was more sugar than I’d want to have all the time for breakfast, but the warm, fresh cherries combined with the cinnamon and custard-y bread was excellent.
I don’t think mine turned out quite as well as the one I had at camp, but I think it’s because I made mine on my own. I suspect when you add the love of half a dozen wonderful volunteers, everything is bound to taste better.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly recipe column by Lindsey Young, who describes herself as an enthusiastic amateur cook and can be reached through her website at spiceupkitchen.net.