Brunch is my favorite meal. When I lived in New York, one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday was to crawl out of bed at 11:00 am and then meet a friend for Eggs Benedict and mimosas. Every fresh infusion of champagne, coffee and carbs would trigger a new flashback and by the end of the meal, we'd successfully piece together the events (and sins) of the night before and determine whether or not a good time was had.
Other times, I would go it alone, nursing my hangover with bacon, Belgian waffles and the Sunday Times. This had the additional advantage of making me look smarter than I really am, because all my alcohol-addled brain could ever handle at that point was the oh-so-foofy-but-shamefully addictive Vows section.
However, despite my love for this most important meal of the week, I generally don't have people over for brunch here in the Toy Kitchen. Somehow, the luxuriously decadent aspect of it all disappears at the prospect of getting up early to to make one pancake at a time in a little skillet as my hungry, hungover guests' baleful glares bore through my back. "Oh, no, we don't mind waiting at all," they'd probably say, smiling through gritted teeth while silently wishing they were at Pancake House instead.
Besides, Sunday's my day off, too.
So, when I came across Ina Garten's recipe for French Toast Bread Pudding, I had to try it out. Only...I didn't have challah bread. I'm not even sure if I can get challah here in Manila. What I did have in the fridge was half a loaf of Gardenia sliced wheat bread. But I figured that was okay, because it's not like bread retains much of its character after it's been soaked in eggs and milk. Think of it as fusion cuisine, I decided to tell my friends if they became suspicious.
The best part of this recipe was that I could do all the heavy lifting ahead of time. All I'd really need to prepare in the morning was the essential ABCs of brunch: alcohol, bacon and coffee.
So here's Ina's recipe adapted for Asia, the Toy Kitchen (because Ina has a huuuge kitchen), and the Real Girl's limited social skills (apparently, Ina also has waaaaay more friends).
Filipino-French Toast Bread Pudding
adapted from a recipe found in Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten
Wheat bread, 8 slices
- 5 large eggs
- Whole milk, 3 cups
- Honey, 2 tablespoons
- Grated orange zest, 1 tablespoon
- Juice from one orange
- Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread in two layers in a 2-quart casserole, cutting the bread to fit the dish. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla bean seeds, and salt.
3. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
4. Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and pour enough very hot water into the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish.
5. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting it so the foil doesn't touch the pudding. Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape.
- 6. Place your pan in the oven very carefully to avoid water sloshing into the bread. Bake for 35 minutes, remove the foil and then bake for another 40 minutes or until the bread puffs up somewhat and the custard is set. Turn your pan around halfway through each baking (with and without foil) if your oven cooks less than evenly.
- 7. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
8. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve hot , preferably with crisp bacon and real maple syrup (NOT the crap that comes in weird f
Next time (aka when I actually plan ahead), I'd love to try this with brioche or croissants, or even the Hawaiian bread I've seen at S&R, and maybe add some walnuts or pecans into the mix. I hope you'll try it and go crazy with your own variations. Because as you can see, a lovely brunch really is as easy as ABC.