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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Oh, Gum Drops!

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I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

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Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

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You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

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Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

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Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

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Some are downright lurid.

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Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

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And my “fruit salad” here.

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The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

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So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

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In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

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Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

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Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

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Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

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Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

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Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

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This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

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Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

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Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

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Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

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I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

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Cut the strips into the sugar.

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Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

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A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

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Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

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Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

Gum Drops!
Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry