The scrumptious scents of nutmeg, vanilla and honey permeated our kitchen — and suddenly my son was right behind me trying to detect the source of the aromas. Before he even had a chance to taste test the recipe for Gracie’s Make-Ahead Baked French Toast, I knew I had found the perfect recipe for Easter morning.
Last year was our first Easter with three children. There was so much excitement that morning as the older two children gathered their baskets and set forth seeking candy and other hidden treats. At the same time, our 6-month-old daughter was trying to figure out if there was something edible for her. After all the treasures were found, I got everyone into their Easter outfits for church. And after church, I was supposed to have some kind of brunch on our dining room table.
We did make it to church. I don’t remember what we ate for brunch, but I know I want this year to be different.
I decided to search for a brunch that could be made ahead of time.
The recipe I found is in a special cookbook I’ve written about before. My mom gave me this cookbook, “Recipes from a Small Island,” by Linda and Martha Greenlaw, as a birthday present a few years ago. It’s written by two women from Maine.
Just as I enjoy sharing my stories about recipes with readers, they, too, share a story with each recipe in their book. Here is Greenlaw’s story about Gracie’s Make-Ahead French Toast.
“When we were building our cottage on Isle au Haut, we spent a great deal of time at my sister Gracie’s house. My kids just loved staying with their Aunt Gracie and Uncle Bud, and why wouldn’t they? Gracie was in the habit of rising early and putting French toast in the oven so that it was ready when they piled out of bed on a bright summer morning and arrived at the breakfast table. It’s a great recipe because the French toast is prepared well ahead of time, even the night before, and so having it ready when the household wakes up is not as much of a sacrifice as it may sound.”
Not only can this recipe be made the night before, but you can freeze the pieces in a freezer bag for up to two weeks. Since last year I was dealing with plastic eggs, candy and more the night before Easter, I am happy to know that I can make some of my Easter brunch the week before. Since this isn’t the healthiest brunch choice, I plan to serve it with a fruit salad (I’ll try to make that ahead of time, too).
Gracie’s Make-Ahead Baked French Toast
4 large eggs
½ cup light cream
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 slices day-old bread, cut 1-inch thick (I prefer French bread)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
Maple syrup, gently warmed
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine eggs, cream, milk, honey, vanilla and nutmeg. Process until smooth. Alternatively, mix this by hand with a wire whisk.
2. Arrange bread slices in a snug layer in a shallow, freezer-safe dish just large enough to hold them.
3. Pour the batter over the bread and let it sit a few minutes to soak in. Gently turn the slices over and let them soak up the rest of the batter.
4. Put the dish in the freezer, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or overnight, until frozen. (Once it is frozen, the bread slices can be packed in an airtight container or plastic freezer bag for up to 2 weeks.)