French toast takes stress out of holiday brunch

Just thinking of a holiday brunch puts a smile on my face. The robust fragrance of coffee brewing, the familiar aroma of bacon, sausage, eggs, waffles, muffins and rolls wafting from the kitchen, big bowls of fresh fruit and a special sparkling b...

Filled with flavor
Raspberry and Almond-Filled French Toast can be stored in the freezer until it's time to serve breakfast to overnight holiday guests. Photo by Sue Doeden

Just thinking of a holiday brunch puts a smile on my face. The robust fragrance of coffee brewing, the familiar aroma of bacon, sausage, eggs, waffles, muffins and rolls wafting from the kitchen, big bowls of fresh fruit and a special sparkling beverage - what a way to start the day. And what a great way to entertain family, friends and weekend guests during the holiday season.

I love entertaining around brunch, the meal that combines breakfast and lunch from late morning to early afternoon. It seems to take less food, less time, less money and less hassle, which all adds up to a relaxing meal with your favorite people gathered around the table.

If you're not an early-morning person, that's OK. You won't need to rise at the crack of dawn to get a glorious brunch on the table when most of it can be prepared in advance. Raspberry and Almond-Filled Baked French Toast with Yogurt Cream can be assembled days before the meal is to be served and then pulled from the freezer just in time for a short bake in the oven.

Buttery and slightly crunchy almond filling combines with sweet raspberry preserves inside of rich, golden egg and cream-soaked slices of bread for a treat that will make your mouth merry. One batch will make eight French toast sandwiches. The recipe can easily be multiplied if you are planning to serve a large group or if you just want to have some extra frozen French toast ready to bake anytime during the holiday season. A generous dollop of thick yogurt fluffed up with whipped cream makes this French toast extra special. Any leftover Yogurt Cream will add elegance to fresh fruit and can transform a bowl of granola into a divine eating experience.

Make brunch day stress-free by preparing bacon in the oven. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly coat with no-stick cooking spray, then arrange slices of bacon on the foil. Slide the baking sheet into a cold oven and turn the temperature to 400 degrees. Within 20 to 30 minutes you'll have crispy bacon without a grease-splattered stove to clean up.


Have a bubbly beverage ready to serve guests as they arrive. It will wake up the palate as well as the person. Create a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage by combining ice cold sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice in a tall glass. Drop in a few fresh pomegranate seeds. They'll bounce around in the bubbles.

Get the coffee brewing, put on some holiday music, light a few candles and put Raspberry and Almond-Filled French Toast in the oven. Whether it's served to family before or after the living room becomes a sea of wrapping paper on Christmas morning or to a group of friends gathered for holiday brunch, this baked French toast is a gift they will love.

Raspberry and Almond-Filled Baked

French Toast with Yogurt Cream
1 cup whole raw almonds, blanched
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Pinch of salt
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old French bread
3/4 cup premium raspberry preserves
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup thick vanilla or honey-flavored yogurt
Fresh raspberries

First, make the almond filling by placing almonds and flour in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender. Grind them to a fine powder. Transfer the almond powder to a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup room temperature butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 egg yolks, almond extract and salt. Use an electric hand mixer to blend the ingredients until fluffy. Chill the almond filling while continuing on with the recipe.

Cut 8 slices of bread, each 3/4-inch thick. Lay each slice on work surface and cut in half horizontally to make 16 thin slices of bread. A serrated knife works best for this job.

Spread half the slices with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of almond filling. Spread the remaining slices generously with raspberry preserves. Make 8 sandwiches, bringing 1 almond- coated side and 1 raspberry-coated side together for each one. Place sandwiches on a 15 1/2- x 10 1/2-inch jelly roll pan.

Beat together 6 eggs, remaining 2 egg yolks, 1 1/4 cups milk, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Pour egg mixture over sandwiches in pan. Let stand a few minutes. Turn sandwiches over and let stand until all egg mixture has been absorbed. Place in freezer, uncovered, until firm. Transfer to freezer-strength plastic zip-top bags. Return to freezer.


To serve, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place frozen sandwiches on well-greased rimmed baking sheet. Use some of the 1/2 cup melted butter to brush over the top of each sandwich. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes. Turn slices, brush with remaining melted butter, and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned. Almond filling will be just starting to ooze out of the sandwiches.

While French toast is baking, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Gently stir in the yogurt.

Serve French toast piping hot with Yogurt Cream and fresh berries.

Tip from the cook

--Blanched almonds can be purchased in the grocery store or you can blanch the nuts yourself. To remove the skins from the almonds, or blanch them, bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat and drop the almonds into the hot water. After 30 seconds, drain the almonds in a colander or strainer and rinse them with cool water. Pinch the nuts out of their skins. The slippery nuts will slide right out. Set the blanched almonds on a plate to dry.

Make-ahead meal
Raspberry and Almond-Filled Baked French Toast can be prepared ahead of time and kept frozen. That just leaves the baking on meal day. Photo by Sue Doeden

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