Every Saturday and Sunday morning, no matter the weather, a line forms in front of a brunch spot a half block from our place. This isn’t a new restaurant, but crowds are just as eager to stand outside for an hour or more for a table or a seat at the counter as they were when this eatery first opened nearly 10 years ago. Despite the potential of a lengthy wait, brunch is a ritual of a lazy weekend morning that involves catching up with friends, committing to a sweet or savory dish and dining on over-scaled omelets and plate-sized pancakes.
Not every weekend morning do I have the patience to brave a line, but I still crave a special breakfast to enjoy on a relaxing sunny morning. If I am spontaneous, I end up making classic waffles, but with a tiny bit of planning French toast is my homemade brunch of choice. Overnight French toast comes together the night before allowing ample time for thick slices of challah to soak up the cinnamon-spiked eggy milk mixture. The result is intricately layered French toast finished with walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Overnight French Toast
Butter for greasing dish
1/2 to 3/4 loaf challah, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Maple syrup for serving
Butter an 8-inch square baking dish and arrange the bread in snug overlapping rows.
In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. Use a spoon to scoop up the unabsorbed liquid and baste the tops of the bread slices. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the walnuts on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve with maple syrup.