RECIPE & TIPS: Spiced Creme Brulee French Toast & How to Host a Sunday Brunch on a Busy Weekend!



I hate over scheduling my family over the weekends. We have so few of them in the year-and so little time to get what we need to get done AND relax. Sometimes, though, it can't be helped. This past weekend was one such instance. Our close friends have had to reschedule twice for a visit and this past weekend was the only time available until middle of summer! So it was important to fit them in. With our garage sale all day on Saturday, and our close friends coming for a brunch on Sunday, I needed to whip out my inner Domestic Diva full force to get it all done! And it can be done, with a little planning, maybe a late evening grocery trip for you or your husband and a little prep work. Then you can have a delicious Sunday brunch spread to feed a vegetarian as well carnivores alike.

Here was the menu:

Apple Cider Bacon
Morning Star Farms Sausage Patties
Coffee and Juice
Sausage, Sun Dried Tomato and Cheese Strata
Spiced Creme Brulee French Toast (see below)
Lime Ginger Fruit Salad with Vanilla Yogurt Sauce
Store bought granola cereal for fruit topping or with milk
Store bought croissants or artisan breads served with butter and jams


STEP 1, The night before:
First your strata needs to sit overnight, so prep that all the night before on Saturday, cover and chill in the refrigerator. Then, prep your French Toast, which also sits in the fridge overnight covered with saran wrap. The recipe follows. If you are feeling extra ambitious, you can make your lime ginger syrup for the fruit salad and have it chill in the refrigerator so that is one less thing to do in the morning as well.

Spiced Creme Brulee French Toast

Ingredients:

Caramel Sauce:
1 stick butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. honey

Bread & Eggs:
8-9" Country round loaf, (you may use LaBrea presliced Italian Country, but put two of the 1/2" slices together to make 1 " thick when filling your pan.)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, melt butter, sugar and honey until a smooth, caramel sauce is created. Pour into a 13 x 9 pan. Spread evenly along the bottom. As it cools, it will stiffen so move quickly.

Either cut the bread yourself in 1 " thick slices (discarding the ends) or as mentioned above, use a presliced bread to save time. The goal is to have 1" thick slices, so double up on your bread if you need to. I keep the crusts on for a more chewy texture, but you can trim them if you wish. Arrange the slices in one layer in the pan flat over the sauce, squeezing them in there tightly. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the half and half, Grand Marnier, salt, vanilla and spices. Pour evenly over bread. With the back of your spoon, push the bread down in areas so it becomes saturated. Cover and chill overnight. An hour before cooking, let sit out to come down to room temp. Preheat oven to 350˚. Bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for 40-50 minutes-or until golden, bubbly and puffy. While baking, be sure to take a spoon and ladle the egg mixture and caramel over the tops of the bread, as well as push ends into the egg mixture gently. This helps keep the tops moist and helps to cook the toast evenly. Serve warm-with syrup if you wish, although you kind of don't need it.



STEP 2, The next morning (about 3 hours before your guests are due to arrive):

First, make yourself some coffee. THAN get to work! Pull out the strata and the french toast. Preheat oven to 350˚ (the great thing is the oven stays at 350˚ for all the stuff you will need to bake in there-it streamlines things). Cook the strata first, because the toast needs to come down to room temp. While the oven is heating, cut up your fruit and make your fruit salad. Make your lime syrup if you haven't already, and finish the salad. Make your yogurt sauce, and cover and keep in the fridge with the salad until ready to serve. Cook your strata.



STEP 3, The next morning:

Meanwhile, set up your table, get music going, set up your "coffee station" (complete with mugs, creamers and sweeteners) and if you have drunk all the coffee (like we did-it was a long garage sale Saturday, we needed it!) make a fresh pot. Pull out your rolls and have them ready to go in a basket.




STEP 4, The next morning:

Collect all extra condiments and topping you need to serve and put them on a tray (syrup, butter, jams). Get a cute bowl and pour your granola in there, cover with saran. Set aside until guests arrive. Pull out the strata from the oven and put in the toast to cook-it takes about 40 minutes. Tent the strata to stay warm with foil.



STEP 5, The next morning:

Watch your toast, spooning egg mixture over as you need.



STEP 6, The next morning:

Finally, cook your bacon. If you have a vegetarian guest, offer Morningstar Farms patties. Evidently, baking them is preferred so put them on a foiled baking sheet and bake during the last ten minutes of the french toast's time on the lower rack.



STEP 7, Guests Arrive:

Offer everyone coffee at the coffee station, and put out all the food. Take out the fruit salad and yogurt sauce from the fridge, too. Sit down, relax and ENJOY your guests and delicious spread!

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