Yesterday, in an uncharacteristic move, I served a pair of French toast dishes for brunch. I made two pans of baked blueberry and strawberry French toast, both rich with half and half and butter. Then I made a third pan of dairy-free baked French toast, that one rich with peanut butter and flavorful with bites of brown sugar-crusted banana. Surprisingly, the banana-peanut butter combo was the biggest hit, and friends gobbled it up alongside slices of bacon, roasted potatoes with homemade tomato chutney, and bloody Marys.
Though I’ve long advocated baked French toast as a brunch staple, I rarely serve platters of the rich, carby main. This is because I don’t love sweet breakfasts and brunches, and the host has to eat too.
But yesterday’s gloom and a desire for ease saw me running home from the supermarket two hours before friends were due to arrive with loaves of fluffy Portuguese white bread ready to be turned into French toast. I loved serving the two variations, and though my oven suffered from being overstuffed with pans of potatoes, bacon, and the French toast, brunch came together and we had a blast.
Also, I though I’d mention that I had never made my own bloody Marys before yesterday. But I’m one hundred percent stirring them together for all future brunches. (I followed Ina’s recipe.) Do you have a signature bloody Mary ingredient?
Banana & Peanut Butter Baked French Toast
Serves 8 to 10 as part of brunch
I made this completely dairy free, using almond milk and safflower oil. If you’re not worried about dairy, it’s fine to make this with milk and butter. This is awesome for brunch parties, since you can assemble the pans before you go out the night before and then pop them in the oven before guests arrive.
3 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or whole milk
1/4 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky, at room temperature
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 tablespoons safflower oil or melted butter
2 teaspoons safflower oil or butter, at room temperature, for the pan
1 loaf challah or good white bread, cut into 10 to 12 slices (about 2 inches thick)
2 ripe bananas, cut into 2-inch slices
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, peanut butter, salt, 5 tablespoons of the light brown sugar, and the 6 tablespoons melted butter or oil.
With the 2 teaspoons butter or oil, grease a baking pan that is large enough to fit all the bread slices. (You’ll probably need a 9-by-13-inch pan plus possibly a smaller square or round pan.) Arrange the bread in it. Wedge the banana slices in between the bread. Pour the egg mixture over the fruit and bread, pressing down on each piece to make sure it’s submerged. Let rest for 1 hour at room temperature, or longer (even overnight) in the fridge.
About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the top. Bake the French toast for 25 minutes, or until the bread is golden and crusty and the slices are cooked through (cut open and peek if you’re not sure). You can serve this immediately, or cool it up to 30 minutes and serve room temperature.