French toast is one of those dishes everyone should master for, say, a brunch when you want to cook for a crowd or a decadent breakfast-in-bed for Valentine’s Day. Either way, this recipe is the perfect place to start. It’s a departure from tradition because it’s baked rather than pan-fried, so you can put the focus on your guests or significant other rather than tending to a hot pan.
This recipe is an exercise in simplicity that’s based on the classic combo of vanilla, almond, and a tinge of sugar. The key is in layering the flavor, first with the almond milk, then the extract, and finally the sliced almonds, which toast up in the oven for a crunchy coating.
Add in that this French toast is baked rather than pan-fried and it’s all that much easier. You could prepare it all the night before and then just pop it in the oven come the morning so that it’s on the table by the time you’ve finished your first cup of coffee. Speaking of which, the length of the soaking time is a major determining factor in the final texture of the toast. Soak the French toast for 30 minutes and it will be on the drier side while soaking it for 12 hours gives it a more custard-like quality on the inside.
So, whether you’re trying your hand at French toast for the first time or just want another easy, low-maintenance brunch recipe to keep on hand the next time company calls, this is the perfect launching pad. And, should you need further inspiration or ideas for riffs, check out the variations below.
Almond-Vanilla Baked French Toast Recipe
- Makes: 6 to 8 servings
- Total Time: 40 minutes, plus 30 minutes to 12 hours soaking time
- Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
- 1 (1 pound) French (sweet not sourdough) baguette
- 4 large eggs
- 2 egg whites
- 1 3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened or cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
- Maple syrup, for serving
Trim ends from bread (eat while preparing the rest of the recipe or reserve for another use) then cut the rest of the baguette into 1-inch thick slices (you should have about 14 to 16 pieces). For the best texture you want the bread slightly dry or stale, so, either loosely cover the slices and let sit out on your counter overnight or toast them briefly until they’re dry but not browned. Arrange bread in one layer in a 13-by 9-inch (about 4 quart) baking dish.
Whisk together eggs, egg whites, almond milk, extracts, salt, and 4 tablespoons of the sugar until eggs are broken up. Pour over bread and let soak, turning halfway through, until bread is thoroughly moistened and has absorbed most of the custard, at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours (cover and place in refrigerator if soaking more than 1 hour).
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400°F and arrange rack in the upper third; set French toast at room temperature while oven heats up. Spread the softened butter on a rimmed baking sheet or, if dairy-free, spray with a nonstick cooking spray.
Place almonds in a flat, shallow dish then coat one side with almonds as follows: remove a piece of French toast, let excess liquid drip off, then place bread in almond dish and press to help almonds adhere. Place bread, almond-side up on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining bread.
Sprinkle tops of French toast with remaining 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Bake until bread is slightly puffed and underside is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately with syrup passed on the side.
Keep the French toast in the dish it was soaked in (you’ll want a dish that fits all the bread so it’s snug), sprinkle the almonds and remaining sugar over the top and bake (this will have more of a bread pudding consistency).
Add the zest from one orange to the almond milk mixture then make these caramelized pears and use instead of syrup.
Replace the almond milk with coconut milk and coat it with shredded coconut for a richer flavor.
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