French toast baked in creamy custard topped with buttery cinnamon sugar & sliced almonds. French Toast Bread Pudding Almondine takes brunch to new heights!
Celebrating a special man
Father's Day is one of the few times my husband will eat brunch.
If given the choice, he'd leave behind the "br-" and head straight to the "-unch" side of the meal. Yup, he's just not into breakfast foods.
What he is into is spending time with his daughters as much as possible, and if that means they'll come over relatively early in the day, he's willing to compromise.
[Side note: Although my younger daughter lives in the southern part of the country, she and her sister still managed to make their annual Father's Day shirt for their Daddy. Seriously, I love this tradition!]
Making brunch the easy way
So what's the best way to make brunch for picky people? And make it easy on yourself?
Make it ahead, and make it delicious!
I look for dishes that I can prepare the night before and pop it in the oven the next morning. Breakfast casseroles and quiche fit that bill.
French toast isn't generally made ahead. Bread pudding is a make-ahead casserole, but it's generally thought of as a dessert.
How about if we combine the two? You'd get french toast bread pudding...slices of bread (usually challah or brioche), soaked overnight in a rich egg custard.
Good so far, but let's take it up a notch.
Add a buttery cinnamon sugar topping and sliced almonds to our dish. And use the best homemade challah recipe around. Friends, we have a winner...French Toast Bread Pudding Almondine!
Back to basics with recipe ratios
First off, let's talk about the custard.
The recipe ratio for a freestanding custard (like flan, for example), is 2-1 liquid to egg. That is, two parts liquid (in this case milk and cream) to one part beaten eggs.
Nice and simple. 'Nuff said.
Vary the Dairy
You can use any type of milk you'd like in the custard. Dairy milk (from fat free to whole milk), almond milk, soy milk, oat milk...you name it, it's fine.
Want to reduce or omit the amount of cream in the custard? Just increase the milk you're using by the same amount. The only difference will be in the custard's richness.
Use the most flavorful bread you can
A recipe for bread pudding is the same as a recipe for egg custard, just with cubed bread added. Here we're using slices of challah instead of cubed (that's the french toast portion of our dish).
For this Father's Day Sunday Brunch, I actually started on Friday afternoon baking my best ever challah recipe. Why? Because flavorful french toast, and by extension, french toast bread pudding, starts with flavorful bread.
Can I use a store-bought challah? Sure! I can also use brioche. But I know my husband loves this challah, and that's reason enough for me.
I made a six-strand braid because I wanted the finished loaf to be nice at high, and a six-strand braid gives that nice rib down the middle.
Assemble the french toast bread pudding
The trick to making custard is to beat the eggs until they're nice and frothy. That gives the baked custard a lighter texture.
Be patient and go slowly when you're pouring the custard over the bread. Give it some time to soak in.
Actually, one reason for starting assembly the day before (besides keeping the workload down the day of the brunch) is that you want to give the custard plenty of time to soak into the challah slices.
That avoids the problem of dried out bread (no one wants that).
The almondine topping is just brown sugar mixed with butter and cinnamon. Sliced almonds are folded in, then the whole thing is spread onto the top and in between the challah slices.
Talk about improving on a good thing!
Do I need a water bath?
That's a good question. The answer is...it depends.
Strictly speaking, a water bath is helpful, but not required.
What is the water bath for then, you might ask? It protects the custard from over-baking on the outside while the inside sets so it cooks evenly. You can skip the water bath and have good results, just keep a careful eye that the custard isn't overcooking and the middle is set.
If you do use the water bath, you'll need to use hot water, but then you must transfer a pan filled with said hot water to the oven. No thanks.
Instead, I recommend measuring the water into your larger pan with the smaller pan placed inside using room temperature tap water. The water should come about one-inch below the top of the smaller pan.
Remove the smaller pan and place the water bath in the oven just before you preheat it. The preheating oven warms the water. Just be careful...you'll get a face full of steam when you open the oven door.
Oh, I almost forgot...drizzle a bit of pure maple syrup on top before heading to the oven. And a dusting a powdered sugar pulls it all together when you're ready to serve.
After all, what's french toast without the maple syrup and powdered sugar?
Make a little or make a lot
You can double the recipe and use a 9- x 13-inch baking pan, adding about 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time. If you have a larger pan for the water bath, all the better.
A perfect dish for brunch
French Toast Bread Pudding Almondine is incredible! Rich in taste, light in texture, not overly sweet, and pretty to boot. A brunch hit!
I got rave reviews from my husband and son-in-law, and my daughter liked it also (she doesn't rave over food, so I'll take that as a win).
As for me, my planning ahead paid off as I didn't stress about being ready.
We had a great brunch, and Daddy & daughter had a nice time being together. And that's what Father's Day is all about!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes using custard
Custards come in many forms, but the method is similar across the board. Luckily, the technique is easy to master, and you'll be able to make a whole range of treats!
French Toast Bread Pudding Almondine
For the bread pudding
- ½ recipe homemade challah dough, or store bought, see Recipe Notes (16 oz, 454g)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream, see Recipe Notes, (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 cup milk, see Recipe Notes, (8 oz, 227g)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, (2¾ oz, 50g)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
For the topping
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, packed, (2¾ oz, 80g)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened, (2 oz, 56g)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup almonds, sliced, (1 oz, 30g)
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup, for drizzling
- powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Generously butter a 8- x 8-inch baking pan.
- Cut the bread across into eight ¾-inch slices. If you are not using a braided bread, cut the slices into two triangles each.
- Arrange the bread slices in in a side to side pattern (like scallops), leaning and overlapping them.
- In a medium bowl (preferably one with a sprout for easy pouring), use a hand mixer to beat the eggs on high until light golden and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Beating eggs well adds air, leading to a puffier soufflé. Beat in the cream, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg.
- Pour the custard over the bread in the dish, lifting the bread up slightly to pour between the slices and letting the custard soak in. It may seem like you have too much, but go slowly to allow the bread time to absorb the custard.
- Using a pastry blender or two knives, combine all topping ingredients (except the maple syrup). Use your hands to spread the mixture over the top of the soaked challah and in between the slices. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight, to allow the bread to soak up the custard.
- If chilling overnight, remove the pan from the refrigerator an hour before baking to allow the eggs to come to room temperature. Remove the plastic wrap and drizzle the maple syrup over the top.
- Prepare the water bath: Place the dish in the center of a 9- x 13-inch baking pan. Pour about 4 cups of water into the pan…it should reach about 1-inch up the side of the smaller baking pan. Remove the smaller pan and carefully transfer the larger pan to the oven. The water will warm in the baking dish as the oven preheats.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Allow the oven to heat 15 - 30 minutes past the point it indicates it’s preheated (this eliminates hot spots and helps even baking).
- Bake until the pudding is puffy, souffléd, and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. The top should be spongy (not dry or crusty), and not too brown.
- Serve the bread pudding piping hot, right out of the oven. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve and enjoy!