Last weekend, I stopped by my favorite bakery, Arizmendi, for my favorite baked good. While there, my eye landed upon a thick, glossy twist of bread: pan de muertos. I’m a sucker for seasonal things, but this one sounded exceptional on any occasion — a sweet, challah-like loaf flavored with anise, studded with orange peel, and dusted with sugar. It’s also festively “person-shaped” in honor of the Day of the Dead, but I saw something else. I won’t say what.
Of course, I had to have it. As you can see, however, it was a pretty sizeable hunk of bread. With quite a bit left over, I could only imagine one destiny for the remainder: french toast!
Some people have puritanically high standards when it comes to french toast, but I personally think it’s hard to mess up. Yes, a crispy, caramelized exterior and custardy-soft inside are preferable… but if you handed me a plate of limp, lifeless egg-battered bread, chances are I’d still eat it with gusto. I’m no snob; I love it all. I’ve particularly been into the idea of baking french toast, which allows me to make huge batches [of what is essentially a healthier bread pudding] for breakfast. Wonderful!
Armed with a favorable worst-case-scenario, I baked up this french toast on the fly. Because the pan de muertos was already so sweet, I kept the batter clean and simple, giving the bread an overnight soak to let all the flavors meld. The recipe included below is more of a guideline than anything else. Please do play around with ingredients and timing, since, as stated beforehand, short of burning your toast, it’s difficult to go wrong! In my particular case, the end result had a lovely toasted top and a tender, eggy bottom. It was an excellent way to make use of bread, leftover or not.
Pan de muertos baked french toast
- 5 whole eggs
- 3/4 cup of almond milk, unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of salt (this could’ve been increased!)
- Pan de muerto or challah loaf, cut into thick 1″ slices (I had about 6.3 ounces)
- Maple syrup
- Beat eggs until uniform. Add in almond milk, cinnamon, and salt, and whisk together thoroughly.
- Arrange the slices of bread at the bottom of an oven-safe pan (I used a 9×9 baking dish). At most, you will want two layers of sliced bread.
- Pour egg mixture over the bread, being sure to thoroughly coat all the slices.
- Cover the pan with saran-wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the saran-wrap from the pan (I know, obvious) and bake for 30 minutes or until the egg mixture sets.
- Let cool, slice, and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.