Friday, June 6, 2008

Blueberry French toast is make-ahead brunch dish

When blueberry season arrives here in New England, we’ll be ready. Lately we’ve come across a wealth of blueberry bread pudding recipes, enough to keep our teeth and tongue blue for a long time.

The sweet blues are a natural for adding to bread pudding. There’s no peeling or chopping involved – just pop them into a baking dish with the usual suspects: bread, milk or cream, eggs, a sweetener and a dash of spice. Of course, there’s nothing like the sweet fresh blueberries that you pick yourself. Our backyard blueberry bush is full of blossoms so we hope to have a good crop this year. But they won’t be ready for picking until mid to late summer, so for now we’ll have to settle for the packaged ones at the super.

This recipe caught my eye because you can make it ahead to bake in the morning for breakfast or brunch. And while the title designates this dish as “French toast,” with the cubed bread, as opposed to slices, it seems more pudding than toast to me.

I have to thank my friend Kathy Jorgensen from California for sending me this recipe. Her input after testing the recipe was most helpful too. She felt there was too much cream cheese, and while it was tasty, she’d cut down on the cheese in the future. She also added an extra cup of berries, and shared the dish with some friends, who liked it also.

With her comments in mind, I then adapted my own smaller version, which I’ve also included following the original recipe. I used bread slices, which I spread with cream cheese, but I did maintain the 1 cup of berries. It was delicious too, so now we have two recipes to choose from.

(from Taste of the Midwest by Midwest Living)
Makes 8 servings Prep: 20 minutes
Chill: 2 hours Bake: 25 minutes

12 slices dry white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
12 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup maple syrup or maple-flavored syrup
Blueberry-flavored, maple, or maple-flavored syrup

1. Place half the bread cubes over bottom of well-buttered 13x9x2-inch baking dish (3-quart rectangular). Sprinkle cream cheese and blueberries over bread cubes. Arrange remaining bread cubes over blueberries.
2. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs with rotary beater; beat in milk and the 1/2 cup syrup. Carefully pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.
3. Bake, covered, in 375-degree F. oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake about 25 minutes more or until knife inserted near center comes out clean, and topping is puffed and golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with blueberry-flavored or maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.
*Note: To dry bread slices: Arrange bread in single layer on wire rack; cover loosely and let stand overnight. Or cut bread with 1/2-inch cubes; spread in large baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in 300-degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until dry, stirring twice; cool. Nutrition facts per serving: calories: 503 total fat: 30g cholesterol: 386mg sodium: 497mg carbohydrate: 40g fiber: 1g protein: 19g


4 slices Italian bread, enough to fit in 2 layers in bottom of casserole dish
2 ounces cream cheese, softened, or enough to spread thickly on bread slices
1 cup blueberries
4 large eggs
1 cup milk or cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Cover bottom of buttered 1-1/2-quart casserole with 1 layer of bread slices, which have been spread with cream cheese. Sprinkle blueberries on top. Add second layer of bread slices. Whisk together eggs, milk or cream, and maple syrup. Pour over bread. Let sit about an hour or overnight. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar. Bake in 350-degree F. oven for 45-60 minutes, or until puffed and browned on top. Serves 4.
(Recipe adapted from Blueberry Surprise French Toast Casserole by Portia Little)


Joan said...

Portia, this sounds delicious. Can't wait for the NC blueberries to get ripe so I can give this one a try. BTW your blog is shaping up wonderfully.

Anonymous said...

Just seeing this makes me want to try it again - with the changes. Spreading the cream cheese on the bread sounds like a great idea. Thank goodness this is on the internet - Maybe when I'm home visiting in Michigan, I can try it out on my family.