Baked French toast
11/2 hours, plus overnight soaking
10 to 12
2 cups heavy cream
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (1-pound) loaf stale French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch slices
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 pound cherries, berries or chopped stone fruit or bananas (you can use frozen fruit; simply thaw and drain well before using)
1. In a medium saucepan,
heat the cream and orange zest over medium heat. Place the chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. When the cream comes to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips, whisking until the chips dissolve. Whisk three-fourths cup sugar into the mixture, then the milk, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract to form a custard base.
2. Place the bread slices
in a single layer in 2 greased 8-inch square baking dishes and pour over the custard; the bread may need to be squeezed into the dishes to fit. Cover the bread and refrigerate the mixture for several hours, preferably overnight.
3. While the bread
is soaking, make the streusel topping. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour with the remaining one-fourth cup granulated sugar and brown sugar, then stir in the sliced almonds. Using your fingers, mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is combined and resembles small peas (you may still have larger pieces of almonds; this is fine). Cover and refrigerate the mixture until needed, up to overnight.
4. Heat the oven
to 375 degrees. Remove the baking dish and streusel topping from the refrigerator to warm slightly as the oven heats.
5. Take the drained cherries
and toss them over the bread mixture, pressing a few cherries between the bread slices. Drizzle the streusel topping over the bread and cherries.
6. Bake the French toast
until the bread is well-puffed and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes. Check to make sure the French toast is cooked throughout.
7. Increase the heat
to 425 degrees and continue to cook the French toast until the topping is crisp and golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.