I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a brunch girl. I wear this label pretty proudly and yes the stereotypes are all true: I have my favorite brunch spots in every neighborhood with backups, I will break a diet for brunch, I consider brunch as anytime between 8am and 4pm, I will optimize my brunch experience by ordering a savory dish for myself and a sweet dish to split, and anything on the menu can be had on the side. My one pet peeve is waiting more than 20 minutes for a table. I HATE waiting to eat, so I know that if I’m not at the neighborhood darling cafe by 10.30AM I better head to the unknown greasy spoon diner instead to get my omelette on.
A typical weekend includes Sunday brunch, usually exploring a new place in the neighborhood if the day is decidedly leisurely or heading straight to a favorite stand-by if there are other shenanigans planned for the day. However, my neighborhood gets a lot of crowds during certain city-wide events (Bay to Breakers, SF Pride) and its a nightmare to even consider going to brunch unless you are OK fighting the crowds. For those days, I’ll try to remember to plan ahead and make brunch at home. My goal for brunch at home is to make it as easy as pointing to the menu at that lovely place down the block.
I always use this wondrously simple recipe for baked french toast from Martha Stewart which turns out like a scrumptious bread pudding, yielding the perfectly baked texture of a creamy custard within each sweet slice of challah. Make sure to use thick slices of challah or a similar sweet eggy bread. The soaked up custard forms a caramelized crust on each slice. The best part about this recipe is it takes about 4 minutes to make it the night before and you have everyone’s French toast ready at the same time. Why would you ever make French toast on the griddle, a few at a time while the rest dry out in the oven, ever again?
I love to top this crisp, custardy French toast with the tartness of a simple summer fruit compote. Simply melt some brown sugar in an equivalent amount of butter over low heat. Add your favorite in-season fruit and simmer until the juices are released. Just before turning off the heat to allow it to thicken, I add cinnamon and a splash of maple syrup. I used plums and blueberries this time, but have also used peaches, raspberries, blackberries, pears, and apples with the same ease and tasty results.