Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberry Caramel Baked French Toast

When I first started dating Jason, I thought it would be a great idea to surprise him with a weekend getaway. I had never been to a bed and breakfast before but the idea of one sounded romantic. With no real clue about where to really do some good research on one (Yes...I realize a computer might've been a nice place to start...let's just skip that detail) I reached for a pamphlet I had recently stumbled upon in a hollowed-out-bus-turned-kayak-rental-office. This is how you all plan your romantic getaways, right?

After a four hour drive through Ohio we found ourselves at the end of a half mile rutted out "driveway" that wove through a mountainous hill and ended in a muddy clearing. Crossing that clearing, we came to the smallest structure I've ever seen that called itself a "bed and breakfast". The owner was lovely, but the cramped quarters made everything about being there awkward. It was not exactly the weekend I had been planning.

However, in the morning, we were treated to the most decadent fruit filled french toast I had ever eaten. It almost made the weirdness of the place worth it. Almost. Anyhow, I have always wanted to make a filled french toast like that day, but I was never keen on the idea of prepping and cooking stuffed french toast on the stovetop. Therefore, when I found a "baked" version, I jumped at the chance to make it.

Strawberry Caramel Baked French Toast
from Cooking Light

This recipe was delicious, and I will make it again, but with a few changes. One is that the caramel sauce portion of this recipe was both a bother to make and not a very prominent part of the end product. Next time, I think I will make a batch of this and drizzle over the finished french toast. Second, I would like to see how this holds up if I make it up the night before and cook the next morning, like I do with this recipe. If any of you try these suggestions, please let me know how it turns out for you!

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

French Toast:
Cooking spray
1 (12 ounce) loaf french bread, cut into 16 slices (about 3/4-inch thick)
1 jar of your favorite strawberry preserves
2 cups fat-free milk
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1) To prepare sauce, combine granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Cover and cook over medium heat 1 minute. Uncover and cook until light golden (do not stir). This step took longer than the suggested 5 minutes for me.

2) Remove from heat and let stand 1 minute. Add butter and stir until melted. Add evaporated milk**, stirring constantly. Place pan back over medium heat and cook until everything melts and smooths out. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. (**when I added the evaporated milk the mixture really clumped up, and even stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan. Unless I did something wrong, don't panic, it will smooth out once you place the pan back over the heat).

3) Pour the caramel sauce into your 13 x 9 baking dish which has been coated with cooking spray. Spread strawberry preserves liberally on 8 bread slices and arrange in dish; top with remaining bread.

4) Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, salt and spices and pour over bread; sprinkle with pecans.

5) Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until top is golden. Let cool 5 minutes and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if desired) prior to serving.

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