Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake

This is brunch done right-- simple, indulgent, and ever so slightly fancy.

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If I'm being honest, I usually dislike French Toast casseroles and bread puddings.  They just seem a bit soggy and bland.  Why would I eat mushy bread for breakfast on the weekend when I can have pretty much any other carb known to man and enjoy it infinitely more?

But this one has changed my mind.  I think because it's not as moist as most, and when you stack the whole bread slices in the dish rather than cutting them into cubes, the top gets nice and crusty.  Not to mention the crunchy sugar on top.  Can we talk about that for a minute?

That sugar is THE best part of this entire scenario, with it's bright orange-y-ness contrasting with the bittersweet chocolate.  On top of the crusty upper edge of the bread. On top of the chocolatey, custardy bread middle.  GAH.

But waitwaitwait.  Before we actually stop, let's talk about bread.  I used the BEST sourdough bread for this, because my husband had a connecting flight through SFO and brought me some.  That man speaks my love language.  The sourdough gives a nice tang and has a great crust, but you could also use a high quality challah or French bread.  Just make sure it's not sandwich bread, because that won't work.  Just...don't.  Trust me here. 

Also, this gets bonus points for being a make ahead breakfast.  Let it soak overnight, then bake it when you get up.  The oven can preheat while you brush your teeth, and it bakes while you shower.  You get an amazing breakfast and a head start on all that weekend relaxing you had planned.  Could life get any better?  I think not.

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Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake
Ingredients
  • 6-7 slices high-quality bread
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coarse sugar (turbinado, sugar in the raw, zulka, etc.)
  • Zest of one large orange, about 1 Tbsp.
  • 3 oz. high quality chocolate bar (60% or higher)
Instructions
Let your bread slices sit out for a couple of hours until they are slightly dried. In a small bowl, combine the turbinado and orange zest and rub them together until frangrant. Break 2 oz. of the chocolate bar into small pieces about the size of a quarter, then chop the rest into small pieces. Whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, vanilla, and one tablespoon of the orange sugar. Melt the butter in a 5"x9" baking pan (a large loaf pan would also work well), then dip each slice of bread in it. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of orange sugar on each slice, then arrange in the baking dish by laying them at an angle and overlapping. Tuck 2-3 pieces of chocolate in between each piece of bread, then pour the egg, milk, and juice mixture over it. {Alternatively, you can cut the bread into 1" cubes and toss in the butter. Spread half in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle about two tablespoons of orange sugar over them, then lay the chocolate pieces on top. Spread the rest of the bread cubes over, then pour on the egg, milk, and juice mixture.} Cover the pan with foil and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining orange sugar, then replace the foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, of until the chocolate begins to look melted and the custard is set. Remove the foil, sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the top, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve warm, with or without syrup.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 Servings