Allow me to introduce you to my first foray into the wonderful world of Paula Deen. Baked French Toast with Praline Topping. I could probably say this about all of her recipes, but I can't imagine a richer, more decadent, and more delicious way to start my day than with a hunk of this stuff.
Making this recipe was an interesting exercise in editing. I found it on the Food Network website, where, last time I checked, the recipe had 1,277 comments. While the overall rating of the recipe was 5 stars out of a possible 5, fans had lots to say about how to improve or tweak this dish for the best possible results. I actually really enjoyed the process of whittling through just a few pages of those 1,277 comments and trying to decide which tips and modifications I was going to follow (the recipe below reflects my changes).
My gut was pretty spot on, because this came out as nothing short of divine. I served it with a strawberry sauce made from throwing thawed frozen strawberries (I used the ones we picked in June), their juices, and sugar into the blender; adding sugar until I got just the right balance of sweet and tart. I was worried that the sauce was going to be completely unnecessary or too over-the-top with the rest of the bread-y goodness, but it wound up being the ideal complement.
I think Paula and I are friends now. Maybe in a year or so my body will have recovered from the lethal amounts of cream, butter, and sugar that I fed myself today, and I'll be ready to tackle another one of her sinfully delicious creations!
Baked French Toast with Praline Topping
Adapted from Paula Deen
1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
For Praline Topping:
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1. Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered (or sprayed with non-stick baking spray) 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Bake for 25 minutes. While baking, prepare Praline Topping (combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well). Remove baking dish from oven and spread topping evenly over the bread. Return to oven and bake for 15-20 more minutes, or until custard is absorbed and casserole is puffed and golden. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve with maple syrup or strawberry sauce.