Sometimes I happen to find recipes in the strangest places and those turn out to be the best ones. Today's recipe came in a little Magazine that Costco puts out for their members called Costco Connections. I was doing a quick thumb through before putting it in my recycling pile and that is when this recipe caught me eye. After reading through the recipe I knew I had to make this for my family. Apples, toffee and french toast? There was no way this could go wrong. Hold on, there is also cream cheese and toffee bits in the filling? And the finished bake is topped with an apple syrup? Sold, sold, sold!
This is definitely not a weekday recipe (unless you are on vacation or you like getting up really early), but more of a weekend breakfast/brunch item. The preparation is pretty much a cinch, but you do have to let the casserole soak overnight, plus count in the baking time the next morning. French bread is cut into cubes, half of the bread is layered into a greased casserole dish before topping it with a tart apple variety (I used Granny Smith) that has been chopped. Cream cheese is then mixed with brown sugar, white sugar and apple juice until creamy and smooth and then English toffee bits are stirred in. This mixture is spread over the apples and finally the other half of the bread goes on top. The whole casserole gets an egg/milk bath and is placed in the refrigerator overnight to soak and let the flavors mingle. The next morning, after letting the dish come to room temperature, it is baked until the eggs are set. Meanwhile the apple syrup is prepared. It is simply apple juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice which are brought to a boil and finally butter is incorporated.
Wow, wow, wow! This is pretty much one of the best sweet french toast bakes I have ever made. It is wonderfully crunchy on top, creamy in the middle with just a hint of toffee, tart apples and a custard like consistency. Absolutely amazing! The syrup just adds another little bit of apple flavor, but this would be just as tasty with maple syrup. With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, many of us will be hosting guests and this French Toast would be wonderful for anyone to wake up to. If you like apples and enjoy breakfasts on the sweeter side, this is one recipe I'm urging you to make this season. I don't think you will regret it!
Apple Toffee French Toast Bake with Apple Syrup
(adapted from "Costco Connections")
For the French Toast:
8 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tart apples, peeled and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup English toffee bits
1 cup milk
For the Apple Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups apple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons butter
For the French Toast: Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan; top with apples. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugars, apple juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth; stir in toffee bits. Spread over apples. Top with remaining bread cubes.
In another large bowl, beat the eggs, milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well blended; pour over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
While the French toast is baking, prepare the syrup.
For the Apple Syrup: In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple juice and lemon juice; heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minutes, then stir in butter. Serve over warm Apple Toffee French Toast Bake.
Adapted from: Costco Connections