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Nicole Franz is a copy editor and paginator at The News-Herald in Willoughby. She takes all those sweet recipes, grueling workouts, cleaning tips, money-saving tricks, do-it-yourself projects and looks that seem so cool on Pinterest and writes about how they really turn out.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pumpkin French toast bake is sweet breakfast treat

I told you I’d be writing about this pumpkin French toast bake and here it is after more than a month. Better late than never, I always say. I made this as a birthday treat for my roommate.
We work opposite schedules so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything special with him like a birthday dinner or drinks that night, but everyone deserves a special birthday treat.

I saw this pin back in the fall, but didn’t get to it until winter had really set in, but it was worth the wait for me. This appetizing pin links you to foodgawker and then refers you to this blog post for the recipe. The post is on the Minimalist Baker blog.

I love the concept for this blog. According to their about section: “Minimalist Baker is a space for simple, delicious recipes. Every recipe consists of 10 ingredients or less, requires a single spoon or bowl, or takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.” 

The duo behind this lovely little blog is John and Dana Shultz. You can follow John on Twitter @johncshultz and Dana @danarshultz. You can also find Dana on Pinterest and they have a Facebook page for the Minimalist Baker.

Their blog has some fantastic art on it (way better than what you’re getting here, sorry folks, I’m a word person), and they have a nifty recipes section that features some shockingly simple recipes (I’m eyeing the baked sweet potatochips, which have just three ingredients and five steps).

But I digress. Dana’s picture-heavy post will make you want to eat this. So you need to know how to make it first (or con someone else into making it for you). 


3½ – 4½ cups 1-inch bread cubes (depending on type of bread)
7 large eggs
2 cups milk (any kind)*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup pumpkin butter (or ½ cup pumpkin puree)*
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar for topping
nuts, like pecan or walnuts (optional)

Those stars refer to notes highly recommending using pumpkin butter and to use whatever milk you want (including skim for lighter, and soy or almond for non-dairy). The recipe also notes that if you use pumpkin puree it is important to compensate the flavor by “adding a bit more puree, pumpkin pie spice, and a little agave nectar, brown sugar or maple syrup to the batter. Otherwise, it will lack that delicious fall, pumpkin flavor you’re going for.”

1. Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes – I recommend a crusty, whole grain variety, but sandwich bread will work, too. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish quite full.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, pumpkin butter and pie spice until well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.

3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar, additional pumpkin pie spice and nuts (optional). Bake for 35-45 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.

4. Serve immediately with maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.

How it went

First off, I should point out I did the first two steps in the middle of the night when I got home from work and was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake up my roommate. 

Regular-old store-brand wheat bread worked fine for me. And I got lazy and just ripped it apart.

Step one: I went with the leftover generic store-brand wheat bread that I had in my kitchen. It does not qualify as “crusty,” but I had already bought it and it was getting to the point where I needed to eat the bread before mold started to eat it instead. I also did not slice the bread into 1-inch cubes. Because the bread wasn’t “crusty” it seemed a lot easier to just tear about the bread into pieces roughly equivalent to 1-inch cubes. About eight slices was enough to fill my Pyrex dish. 

Ooey-gooey, pumpkin French toast batter.

Step two: I did not use pumpkin butter, because I didn’t have any and didn’t come across a crockpot recipe for pumpkin butter until after I made this (believe me, I will try this with that pumpkin butter recipe and let you know how that goes and how this recipe goes with pumpkin butter). Instead of using pumpkin butter I used a heaping ½ cup of pumpkin puree and added about 2 tablespoons of syrup to the mix. I don’t have fancy maple syrup, but the light store-brand syrup I did have seemed to work OK.

I attempted to pour with one hand and document it with the other.
If you think this is a bit blurry you should see the one I didn't use.

I also got a little generous with my pumpkin pie spice, but look at this picture from Minimalist Baker. If that’s only 1 ½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, then I am queen of Sheba. 

This is what it looked like right after I poured the mix. Pay no attention to that sink full of dirty dishes.

The pouring over the bread this is easy. I attempted to drizzle the mix over the entire thing, but pushing down the bread that wasn’t covered with a spoon did the job of distributing the mix nicely. So I took another picture, popped the lid on this sucker and called it a night.

Here's how it looked up close after I evened it out. Sweet and soggy.

Here's the full tray right before I popped a lid on it and tossed it in the fridge.

Bonus: I had leftover packed pumpkin, so I used the helpful ice cube tray trick to save the pumpkin for my next adventure in pumpkin-flavored food. I just scooped out the pumpkin by the spoonful and packed it into an ice cube tray as best I could. One standard sized cube is 2 Tablespoons, 2 cubes is 1/4 cup, 4 cubes is 1/2 cup, etc. So I've got about a 1 1/2 cup of packed pumpkin for my next recipe. Once frozen I just popped them out into a labeled freezer baggy.

The packed pumpkin is a bit harder to get even than the pesto sauce was

Step three: Early in the morning. Like super early for me. Like before 8 a.m. when I went to bed after 3 a.m. early, I got up to pop on the oven and get this thing going because I am the best roommate ever (no matter what he says when I accidentally wake him up at 4 a.m.).

Morning after a long night of soaking up liquid, this bread looks a little puffy,
but I would too if I spent all night soaking up liquor, I mean liquid.

Just before popping I jazzed it up with a little brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice
I did not top mine with nuts, because they’re expensive, but I did spring for brown sugar and more pumpkin pie spice. 

I was a bit haphazard with my sprinkling of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice,
but really is that something you're supposed to be precise about?

I checked on the French toast bake after 35 minutes and didn’t think it looked quite done yet. I baked mine for the full 45 minutes.

Done, a.k.a. slice and dice 'em time

It smelled so delicious, a lot like a less overwhelming pumpkin pie scent

Step four: I dished out a hulking piece for my roommate and set out some syrup for him to use. I went for a much smaller slice, because I was going to go back to sleep once he left for work. I ate mine with syrup, too. 

My tiny little corner piece, drizzled with syrup

It definitely needed syrup or a similar substitute (honey, agave nectar) to sweeten it. But this breakfast delight was ooey-gooey goodness. The syrup was just the icing on top of the proverbial cake. 

The only disappointing part of this recipe for me was that it wasn’t as pumpkin-y as I expected. I think that using pumpkin butter would add more of that pumpkin flavor into the French toast bake, but it was so easy to make that I can’t wait to retry this recipe with this crockpot pumpkin butter recipe.

And my roommate was happy to have a delicious, hot pumpkin pie-esque breakfast before heading off to work.

Love pumpkin? 

I've also blogged about making healthier cakes with packed pumpkin, soft pumpkin cookies that are hard not to scarf down and an easy and delicious pumpkin cheesecake.

— Nicole Franz | | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.

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