So, Josh is off today and tomorrow for day long workshops on bread making, grain growing, oven building, etc goodness at the Maine Grain Alliance Kneading Conference which culminates on Saturday in a little Bread Fair. We’ve been going to the fair pretty much since we’ve been up here (before Josh started really baking) but during the pandemic they held the Kneading Conference online and he went to that the last 2 years. This will be the first in person conference for him and he’s already meeting bread celebrities!
The fair is cute – it’s at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds which are pretty big but the Bread Fair is not, there is a big wood fired pizza oven and a couple of food trucks (delicious but expensive for struggling folk like us), a couple of kid activities (like pasta making, pizza making, etc), an Old Timey Band in the gazebo, and vendors. We go and pick up our favorite Casco Bay Creamery butter flavors (Truffle, Salted Caramel – though I am hoping to snag some Blue Cheese or even Truffle Blue Cheese this year!) and say hi to a former work colleague turned Butter Queen!, we shop the bread books and Gryffon Ridge spices, buy up some odd Maine Grains (I love the Ancient Grains cereal blend and Spelt flour), get a Blueberry Lemonade and ooh and ahh over handmade adorable mother/daughter matching aprons (ha!), and the amazing wooden bowl and spoon people, and the dreamiest – the basket lady. Oh, her baskets are truly gorgeous functional artworks – I wish I could afford one but I just drool and marvel over them. Who knows what it will look like this year (we shall find out Sat morn!) but it’s a nice feeling to support grain culture in Maine.
With all that said, and with bread on our minds, and with a loaf of Stone Broke Bread‘s Cinnamon Raisin hanging around, my dreamy thoughts went to French Toast. I generally love all French Toast (if it is well soaked, does anyone like it when the egg just coats the outside?) and have had some stunning renditions – like when J made it for my birthday one year and put peanut butter between the layers (you got your peanut butter in my french toast! mmmm) but I have to say, with the raisins? Yes (though if you are out of this lovely Special, a cup of chopped fruit works, too – frozen or fresh apples or blueberries, chopped dates, etc) . Of course, if you have other bread, it is likely to be delicious, too – sourdough, honey oat, rye, white, whole wheat, the braed (the only fresh picture I have right now)- all delicious in this or as regular French Toast. Feel free to ignore the casserole idea and just soak your sliced bread (even better if it’s a little stale or slightly toasted) in the egg/cream mix and cook in a cast iron (best but not ‘necessary’) with a healthy dose of butter/ghee/or plant butter but I find the crust breaks down nicely in a full casserole fashion and who can argue with Crisp Topping?! Invite some brunch friends, add a dollop of homemade Maple Whipped Cream or yogurt, make a nice pot of coffee and enjoy!
Stone Broke Bread’s Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Crisp Casserole
3 Tablespoon Butter (1 Tbsp to prepare 9×13″ baking dish or a tall-sided 12-inch ovenproof skillet, butter and set aside), (2 Tbsp to dollop on before baking if not using Topping, see below – if unsalted add 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt to dollops before baking)
1 loaf Cinnamon Raisin bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 large farm fresh Eggs
3 cups Whole Milk (or a mix of heavy/whipping cream or 1/2 & 1/2 and milk, or even milk alternative with a tsp of Tapioca flour whisked in)
1/2 cup Rum (we used Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum—if you’re concerned about the alcohol, feel free to reduce, replacing with another liquid like milk)
1 cup lightly packed Brown Sugar (though we use Cane Sugar and a tsp of Molasses)
1 tablespoon pure Vanilla extract
(if not using Cinnamon Raisin bread): 1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Sea Salt
Optional Crisp Topping: (make fresh the next day, after the casserole has soaked)
8 Tbsp Butter (if unsalted, add a little more salt)
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 cup Whole Oats
1/2 cup Flour (AP, Whole Wheat, Spelt, Almond, Oat, etc – whatever suits your fancy, I generally use Almond to up the varied protein content)
1/4 cup Brown Sugar (or 2 1/2 Tbsp Cane Sugar + 1/2 Tbsp Molasses)
- In the buttered baking dish scatter the cubed bread across the bottom.
- In a big bowl, whisk the eggs to combine, then whisk in the heavy cream, milk, rum, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Pour the mixture over the bread, really pressing down on the bread to help the custard soak in. Add a little more milk if necessary – there should be a bit extra in the bottom for the soak.
- Cover with foil or lid and refrigerate for at least 6 to 12 hours.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Take the casserole out of the fridge, stir to see the soak (add a little milk if looking dry but everyone in the pool should look saturated but not soggy), replace cover and let it sit at room temp for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid or foil and top with a couple of (salted) Tbsp of butter or the optional Crisp Topping (take all crumble ingredients and using a pastry cutter or your cooled clean fingers to mix until small pea sized crumbles come together, disperse across top of casserole evenly, alternatively some folks grate the butter then just stir together).
- Bake until the topping is golden and the bread cubes peeking out of the top are crusty and toasty, 50 to 55 minutes (internal temp at least 150 degrees). Let sit 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm with maple syrup!