Giant Apple Croissant French Toast

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Our families are too big to have over at the same time (because our new dining room is tiny), so when we wanted to host a nice summer housewarming brunch, we split them up: my family last weekend, and the Pie’s family this coming weekend.

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Because Krystopf and Atlas were coming and they were bringing the newly-mobile, currently-teething, and generally low-patience General Zod with them, we knew this particular brunch had to be easy and it had to be something they could eat and run.  I had made a Croissant French Toast Casserole before, and it had been pretty good, albeit way too sweet.  So for this one I dropped the sugar altogether in the egg mixture (it’s still in the streusel topping) and added a bunch of fresh and dried fruit to the mix.  I think it’s my new favourite, and everyone went back for second helpings so I think they liked it too.  I doubled the recipe to give leftovers, so this probably will feed 12 comfortably.  Feel free to halve it — though I bet it freezes well, and this amount made 2 casserole dishes’ worth, which would be enough for a potluck as well.

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Start with 12 stale croissants.   If they’re not quite stale, rip them up and leave them out for a couple hours and then they’ll be stale.  Don’t sacrifice a truly fresh croissant for this, though.  If you have a hot fresh croissant, you need to stuff that in your face this instant, or we can’t be friends anymore.

Chop up 3 apples into bite-sized pieces and set those aside.

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I also grabbed a jar of diced dried apricot and another of golden raisins, just for variety.

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Crack 10 eggs into a large bowl.

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Whisk in 3 cups milk (I used a mixture of cream and milk), 3/4 cup yogurt (any kind — I used Activia prune), 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons vanilla.

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Make sure you manage to break all those yolks.

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Butter two 9″ x 13″ pans generously and start layering in bits of torn-up croissant.  I then took a scoop or two of apple pieces and sprinkled them on, together with a small handful each of dried apricot and raisins.

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Layer on more croissant pieces, and more fruit, but make sure that the top layer is just croissant pieces, as the fruit will simply burn in the oven if left exposed.  Then, just pour on the egg mixture until everything is lovely and saturated.  Cover the casseroles with plastic and chuck them in the fridge overnight.

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The next day, preheat your oven to 350°F and grab a bowl.  Tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon, and give that a good whisk up.

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Use a pastry blender to cut in 3/4 cup cold butter until you’ve just got little pea-sized pieces of it.

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Sprinkle that goodness all over the tops of your casseroles and bake them for about an hour and a bit, until the top is dark brown and the egg is all cooked. We served ours hot with maple syrup and a lovely layered fruit salad on the side.

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Sweet Bread Pudding with Squash and Tres Leches Sauce

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Second bread pudding of the week.  And this one is also made of squash.  But here’s the kicker: this one is a sweet one, a bread pudding you can have for dessert or even breakfast.  A very rich breakfast.  When the Pie and I ate this dish last Sunday morning we had to go and have a nap afterwards.  But it was worth it.

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There’s a bunch of this that you can do the day before, to save yourself time.

First,  you roast a butternut squash at 400°F until it’s all tender and squishy, about 30-45 minutes.

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If that doesn’t do the trick you can always put it in the microwave.

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Cut up a baguette into chunks and leave it overnight to go stale.  If you’ve already got a stale one then you don’t have to wait for it, obviously.

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Now the tres leches sauce takes about 45 minutes to make so you will probably want to do this the night before.

In a medium saucepan, bring a 12oz can of evaporated milk (I actually used coconut milk because that’s what I had on hand) and 6 tablespoons granulated sugar to a boil.

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See how it’s all nice and foamy.

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Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon baking soda in 2 teaspoons warm water and chuck that in as well.  Be wary of the foaming milk.  Keep stirring.

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Reduce the heat to medium and keep it simmering.  Stir it frequently while it cooks, for about 30 minutes, until it’s significantly reduced and a light caramel in colour.

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Add in 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup whipping cream and stir it around until it’s all warm and thoroughly mixed.

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Now let it cool until it’s just warm and then you can serve it.  Or bung it into the fridge overnight.

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So onto the bread pudding.  Set your oven at 350°F and butter a large casserole dish.

Take half your squash and plop it in a blender with 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Add in 1 1/2 cups half-and-half milk (or use regular low-fat milk mixed with your preferred amount of cream), some freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch or two of garam masala, and a shake of cinnamon.

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Give that whirl, then add 5 large eggs and whirl it again until just combined.

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As for the other half of your squash, use a fork to roughly mash it up with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Plop your stale bread chunks in a large bowl and add in the milk/squash mixture as well as the rest of your half-and-half.  Let that sit for a few minutes.

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Dump in the rest of the squash and stir it around.

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Pour it into the casserole dish and bake it for 30 minutes, until it’s all solid and browned.

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Serve hot, either as a breakfast or as a dessert.

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Drizzled with tres leches sauce it’s not a healthy breakfast but it sure is good.

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