Now that the summer is slowly coming to an end, and we find ourselves heading into the cooler season of fall, thoughts of berries, stone fruit, and watermelon are in the distant past. The produce aisles are beginning to fill up with rows of apples, so many different varieties. During this time of year, I love taking a trip to one of the many apple orchards that we have here in Washington and seeing what new varieties each orchard has to offer. The smell of apples baking in cinnamon and brown sugar is one that stirs up so many emotions and memories from my childhood. The first time I made an apple pie with my mother. The first time Brent and I perfected the cinnamon roll. I wish I could bottle up that aroma and wear it as a perfume. On days where I'm feeling a bit down, I'll fry up some apples, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and eat them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is the absolute comfort food.
Now that the summer holidays are tapering to an end, and life has gotten just a bit more hectic, I find that having casseroles on hand to heat up for left-overs can really come in handy when I'm in need of some good homemade food.
I got the idea to make this French toast casserole for a Sunday brunch with friends. I really wanted to make french toast, but it's a little tricky when you're at someone's house, and you don't really want to dirty their dishes or rummage around their cupboards. I thought that if I prepared the French toast as a casserole, baked with cinnamon, brown sugar, apples, and pecans beforehand, I could save some time the morning of.
The casserole turned out perfect. It was the first time I had made something like it, and I was so pleased with the results. I picked up a fresh loaf of brioche bread from the market, which smelled incredible. I think the key to a good French toast is having a really good loaf of brioche. If you don't have access, you could always use a loaf of white bread, but the results just won't be the same. The additional of the apples and pecans added a sweet flavor that really enhanced the dish, and topping it off with a cream cheese icing was definitely the right thing to do. It was such a hit at the brunch, everyone wanted the recipe. I can't wait to make it again.
Thanks to the folks over at Kraft for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Be sure to check out the Kraft Product Locator to find ingredients near you.
APPLE CINNAMON FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE WITH A CREAM CHEESE ICING
prep time: 15 minutes
cooking time: 70 minutes
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 loaf brioche of brioche bread, cubed
cream cheese icing:
8 oz Kraft cream cheese, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter on medium until it starts to sizzle. Add the apples, pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon and combine. Cook the apples until they are soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and set to the side.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Add the cubed bread to the egg mixture and combine until all of the bread is coated. Pour the bread into a 9 x 9-inch square baking dish. Add the apple mixture and combine.
Bake in the oven for 60 minutes. Once cooked, remove and cut into 9 squares.
While the casserole is cooking, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth with either a hand mixer or stand mixer. Add the vanilla, and then slowly drizzle in the milk. Mix until a thick pourable consistency similar to sour cream. Spoon the icing into the warm French toast casserole.
The casserole can be stored in the fridge for 2 - 3 days, and heated in the microwave or oven to warm. Store the cream cheese icing in a separate container.