Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Baked French Toast

We just returned home from a wonderful Thanksgiving/Nephew’s Wedding week with family and friends.  9 of “my household” were in attendance at our Thanksgiving dinner with 40+.  It was actually fun to put 2000 miles on my car with Stephy-Wephy, Honey, and Penguin as my  traveling companions.  Hubby drove a second vehicle so we all had lots of room for culinary extras and lots of stuff that ensured an exceptional week.

My mom, 84, is a great cook, but her methods and tools have not changed over the past 64 years.  She has a masters degree in foods science and  education...back in the day when having a homemaking major was a good choice for a woman who used her skills to raise her family and keep her home.  My mom sews, quilts, gardens, and she teaches.  In fact, after all us kids entered school, she was our high school foods teacher back in the 60's when that was a required class for every girl.  She loves to cook, bake, and to teach.  But...she continues to use the same mixer she had when I was a youngster at home, and I recognize her old knives and egg beater and pastry blender, etc from days long gone.  Actually amazing.  Most of the tools I use often in my kitchen need replacing regularly.  (Stephy-Wephy probably feels that the pocket size, poor quality camera I use is about how I feel about the knife my mom was using...needs an update, but right now I have no time to learn a new thing, and just like my mom is comfortable using her almost non-functional knives I am comfortable with my little point and shoot...on one "normal" setting.)

And being a teacher of foods, my mom added cooking projects to our jobs lists every week...Along with my list of Saturday's chores, I usually made a dessert on Saturday for Sunday dinner.  But I always had my own methods and would not listen to my mom...drove her nuts.  (Always have had a rebellious side...still don't like to listen to my mom...I guess these things never change.)  She read through recipes before beginning and then measured every ingredient perfectly, and she rarely deviated from a printed recipe.  I threw in this and that and instead of leveling off the dry measuring cups for a correct amount, I dipped and shook my cups of flour until they looked right.  I'm sure that my baking could have been much better, but we all ate my creations every week and I remember the family enjoying what I made.
After our Thanksgiving dinner had been enjoyed, my Mom boiled all the turkey bones and uneaten parts and made a wonderful broth that was used for our Sunday dinner turkey soup.  I watched as she cleaned and chopped vegetables for her soup.  With her arthritic hands she carefully and slowly cut up the long, hard carrots with her ancient knife, one chunk at a time.  It took her all day to cut up the vegetables she wanted for her soup.  I badly wanted to take over her chopping job, just to help, and get it done quickly.  (I travel with my own, sharp and varied knives, food processor, etc.)  But my mom was happy doing this work and her hands need to move and to create, and I need to be patient.   I thought of how we, at out house, prepare ingredients in just a few quick minutes using our better and more modern tools, and how we are always in a hurry to get everything done.

I tell her about my cooking/blogging groups and she thinks they are wonderful.  She is amazed by the beautiful foods and photos,  and by the awareness people now have concerning different types of ingredients and how they work together to create better tasting and looking dishes.  She loved browsing through my blog and had so many questions...she continues to love foods.  I think if she were 20 years younger she would love to be in my groups.  Mom is, however. an avid  reader and even though her cooking does not keep up in all areas, her knowledge does.  I can tell her about the recipes I try and she seems to know all about them...even the foreign language labels.

And my dad likes to visit with me while I cook.  My parents have a 2nd beautiful kitchen downstairs in their home and everyone calls it Kris' bakery...I  travel up (near Salt Lake City)  to help with weddings, anniversaries, and other extended family parties and I produce mass quantities of foods using all my "stuff."  (I'm sure you would all laugh at me to see all the tools and ingredients that travel with me...part of why Hubby drives his truck....poor Hubby.  Now it's not my mom who gets frustrated by my cooking but it is Hubby, although after a grumble or two, he knows by now I will win, and he gets happy and enjoys all that we do.  Having food around ensures that all my big family comes to see me in  "my" kitchen and they love being my tasters...sometimes they hang out all day.  One of the first things I do when I hit town, is head to Costco for more ingredients so that "my" kitchen will have goodies to make sandwiches and pots of pasta or soup so that everyone can fill their hungry tummies and want to hang around.  Part of my fun.)  My old dad asks me what everything costs and where purchases can be made, likes to see how things are used and I can see him wishing he could replace all my mom's tools for newer and better ones, but my parents are old and will use what they have.

Sometimes I wonder how our eating preferences will change over the next 20 years with all the creative cooks and chefs and bakers.  Will I still love all my cookbooks?  Who would have ever guessed that now, some bakers add bacon to brownies?  We all share knowledge and ideas readily with the media and with all the wonderful food and photo blogs.  I have hundreds of cookbooks that I love to read.  Every month I get a new cookbook or new cooking idea magazines and I try new recipes.   And blogs such as this expand my abilities and thinking.   And from these cooking adventures I find new favorites and better ways of doing things.  My mom has cookbooks that she used when I was a child.  I’ve given her a few new ones over the years, but her recipes really don’t change.  Her food is good, even great, but it is standard fare for the most part.  (And, my cookbooks have beautiful photos...hers do not or just a very few.)
And that brings me to today’s “Baked French Toast.”  I’ve often thought about baking my French toast using this baked method, but I keep to my standard stove top methods.  The only thing hard about this recipe is that I have to THINK in advance...the night before if I want to use it as my breakfast.  And cooking this recipe forced me to do some advance thinking which, at times,  is a novel venture for me.  I’m happy I did it, however, because now that I planned ahead for this recipe assignment, I can plan more easily to do it again.

And I suppose, this is a difference between me and my mom.  Even though it can be easier and maybe more tasty, she keeps to her usual methods.

Watching my daughters in the kitchen is a pleasure mostly because their creations are much prettier than mine...more detail and fancy garnishes.  I produce in large quantities for my large family and parties, etc...but they are more careful and do more fancy decorating. All fun!

For today’s French Toast I used a chiabatta loaf that was still warm from the oven at the bakery.  After baking the thick slices in the creamy egg mixture, I poured strawberry sauce on the warm toast and then drizzled melted dark chocolate over the top, added fresh raspberries and chopped sugared nuts, and finished with a bam of powdered sugar.

Penguin was still with me...spent the entire week with me as her parents went to a different part of the country...and she was my taste tester.  This dish was declared, “Good!” by one whose opinion matters lots to me.  We baked an extra pan for Penguin to take home...her parents picked her up late; we were sure they would be tired from their cross-country trip.

The only thing I would do differently next time would be to bake it for a 5 minute shorter time.  I got side tracked playing with Penguin and the toast got a little too toasty.  But no problem...just a little more chewy for this already chewy bread.  And I do like a good chewy bread with a crunchy exterior crust....but I'll remember for next time.
To serve this French toast was simple.  No additional syrups or jams were needed.  Penguin did request whipped cream.  I tried a piece the next day and it was delightful as an afternoon a yummy dessert.

I have renewed appreciation for learning new things and will be excited to see what you all have done with this recipe.  Hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving; we all certainly did!!!


  1. What a gorgeous presentation of French toast! I only wish my folks had an extra kitchen for me as nice! I love your selection of toppings. Very festive. Happy Sunday!

  2. I so enjoyed reading your post and hearing about your mom and dad. How wonderful that you mom still enjoys cooking and I bet it is just beautiful watching her cook and seeing her use all her tried and true cooking methods. Your baked french toast looks wonderful and I what a great idea to add chocolate! I hope you are enjoying your Sunday!

  3. Your story is beautiful and so is your food. Glad this brought the family together.

  4. Great post! I think too about how much our knowledge and use of food has changed and how will it continue to change in the future.

    Your french toast looks fantastic!

  5. What a great post, and your French toast looks delicious!

  6. I love the use of the thick slices of bread in this decadent dish!

  7. Oh my gosh, chocolate -- what a wonderful, decadent addition! I always love reading your posts -- it was terrific to read about your kitchen away from home and your mom's cooking methods!

  8. Baked French toast - how fabulous! It looks so delectable with its strawberry topping.

  9. This looks amazing and what a great recipe for the holiday season. Kris, I just bought a new camera and I haven't had time to really learn how to use it yet, so it sits in the box while I continue to use my point and shoot.