Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet Sunday - Monkey Bread French Toast Casserole

I told you I had something quite delicious coming to you for Sweet Sunday!

Some time before Christmas, I think, I was catching up on my saved-up episodes of Rachael Ray.  Simply stated, I love Rachael.  When it comes to food, she is about as real as it gets.  She makes delicious meals, appeals to those of us on budgets, and when she has "diet people" on her show, she is honest and tells them that there is no way she is going to eat that tiny "appropriate" serving of pasta.  I aspire to have her fearlessness when it comes to food in this way.

Anyway.  Chris and I are were watching this particular show, which may have been part of a breakfast-themed week of recipes, and here comes not just monkey bread.... not just french toast..... not even just banana bread, but...... monkey bread french toast casserole!  As Rachael would say, shut the front door!

Now, I will be completely honest with you and tell you that my first couple of bites just felt kind of meh.  But then, as the casserole cooled down (because I can NEVER let something cool the appropriate length of time.  Ask Chris.  When we were dating, he would make me dinner, and then say, okay, now it has to cool for 10 minutes.  And he would set a timer.  WHAT??  I'm hungry now!)... as I was saying, as the casserole cooled down, the flavors really started to come out.  Surprisingly, the overall flavor is not intensely sweet, but rather balanced.  The texture is more of what I would consider a bread pudding, but having never made a french toast casserole, unless someone can educate me otherwise, maybe this is the texture that such a dish takes on?

Either way, you won't be disappointed, and this recipe is so easy to prepare!  It calls for banana bread (putting the "monkey" in the monkey bread part of the name), but in truth, you could use any bread, even something store-bought (gasp!).  Then you prep the dish the night before and it goes straight from your fridge to the oven.  So simple!

I left out a couple of things from Rachael's recipe (bacon - we didn't have enough, walnuts - Chris doesn't eat them, extra banana slices and maple syrup), so I would encourage you to consider adding these components.  They can only make the recipe even better (and the bacon would make this super savory).  Also, my adaptation is half of the recipe, which, according to Rachael's recipe, would mean using 2-3 cups of cubed banana bread - go ahead and use the whole loaf like I did.  I still could have used a smidge more (though, maybe it would have helped if I hadn't continually nibbled so much of it.... what?  I'm just being honest).  Here's my adaptation:

Monkey Bread French Toast Casserole

1 loaf of your favorite banana bread, cubed and toasted (I will share MY favorite another time)
4 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cinnamon (trust me, its not too much)
optional extra banana for slicing

The night before you want to serve this, butter a 1.25 quart casserole dish (or anything smaller than a 9x13 pan, like a small corningware dish) and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, milk, and cinnamon.  Once combined, gently add the toasted banana bread cubes and toss to combine.  Pour the mixture into your casserole dish, cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake, still covered with foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the foil, add some banana slices around the edge, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and-


Let the casserole for at least 10 minutes, maybe a little more while you cook up some bacon to go with this dish.

Now, slice into this lovely breakfast and enjoy!

As with any french toast recipe, you could serve this with powdered sugar and/or maple syrup.  Both Chris and I agreed that the casserole by itself was perfect without any extra syrup (shocking to me, this agreement from my die-hard lover of maple-syrup).  Its so moist that I think more syrup would have been too much, but if you are a die-hard syrup lover, by all means, go for it.  I'm certainly not stopping you!

I hope you have a great start to the week!  Stay tuned for more tasty snacks and a workout or two this week!

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray