In today's admission of food snobbery, I had convinced myself that I hated the idea of a make ahead breakfast casserole type dish. Monkey bread could go take a hike and if you thought I was going to eat soggy white bread french toast in a casserole dish, you had another thing coming but when it was time to whip up a few brunch dishes at the request of a friend's husband that I could drop off the night before, it kept creeping into my brain. I made a frittata, which is always good the next day but everything I thought I wanted to make that would be more on the sweet side of things worked best made on the day. I was pretty sure my friend would love a french toast bake though and since it was her birthday brunch, not mine, I set out to make one that would make me happy as well.
I used croissants in place of bread and, trust me, this is the one time that those doughy, bread like grocery store croissants work better than a really well made, flaky croissant, so get those. They hold up better to the overnight soak in the custard and I feel like they are more absorbent than a really good quality, french bakery style croissant.
If you don't want to use pears, you can replace them with apple slices, use almonds instead of pecans and feel free to switch out the cinnamon for nutmeg or cardamom if that is what floats your boat, just don't skip the caramel/fruit mixture for the bottom because that is what puts this version over the top.
So, I take back all of my old, judgemental opinions about make ahead french toast casserole thingys and I will admit that I will absolutely make this again and again and, yes, it's as delicious as is convenient and you can lecture me about how wrong I was.
Overnight Caramel Pear French Toast with Croissants
4 pears, peeled and sliced into about 1/4"slices
1/3 cup butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped roughly
2 tbls flour
3 tbls water
6-8 large croissants
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla
3 tbls of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
serve with : maple syrup, whipped cream (optional)
melt the butter in a pan over med high heat. Add in the sugar and let cook away until the sugar melts. Throw in the pears and gently fold the pears in, making sure they are all coated in the mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in the pecans and stir.
whisk the flour and water to make a slurry, ensuring there are no lumps left before you add that into the pan, stir to incorporate the slurry and then let it cook for another ten minutes to thicken up.
Butter a 9x13" baking pan (or a total of 3L if you choose a different shape) and pour in the caramel and pear mixture, letting it cool to room temperature while you prepare the croissants.
Slice the croissants into 1/2" thick slices and start layering them in the pan. If you want, you can also just tear them up or cube them and start adding them on top of the pears, making sure to shove them all down and pack them in.
Whisk eggs until just mixed and then add in the milk, yogurt, cinnamon and vanilla and give it a couple final whisks before you pour that all over the top of the croissants. Make sure the bread is pretty much submerged by pressing down on it if you have to and then cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for at least a few hours but preferably overnight.
When it's time to bake, take the casserole out of the fridge and let it come to room temp a bit while you preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle all over the top of the dish and then scatter the chopped pecans and bake for about 50 minutes, until golden.
Let it sit for a few minutes before serving and then serve along side some maple syrup and whipped cream if you feel sassy.