If I'm going to indulge at breakfast, it's likely to be pancakes or waffles -- or so I thought until I tasted this orange French toast with almonds. It's permeated with a delicious orange flavor from the orange juice and Grand Marnier liqueur it sits in overnight (you're with me now, I'll bet). Pull it out of the fridge in the morning (great for when guests come) and sprinkle some sliced almonds on top, then place in a buttered skillet, before flipping over and adding almonds to the second side.
I ate this delicious dish earlier this summer at the Birchwood Inn, a wonderful bed and breakfast in Lenox, a quaint New England town in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. The owner, Ellen Gutman Chenaux, is the quintessential innkeeper, friendly and eager to please her guests who stay in this beautiful 19th century building.
If you're not touring the area, which is chock-a-block full of interesting sites and activities -- from the Tanglewood Music Festival in the summer, to the Norman Rockwell museum to the Berkshire botanical garden -- you can pull up a rocking chair and relax on the front porch.
Sit by the fireplace in the spacious living room, and choose a book from the voluminous library.
The sun-drenched dining room is a welcoming spot for morning breakfast, but don't expect a bowl of cold cereal. Oh no, Ellen's breakfasts are renowned, having been named the "best breakfasts in New England" by bedandbreakfast.com.
This herb-filled quiche with a corn salad on the side gives you some idea, but there are several other side dishes to enjoy as well, and always homemade breads, coffeecakes and cookies.
Each morning presents a different opportunity for Ellen to shine in the kitchen, as with this soufflé roulade served with roasted potatoes.
Once I got home, I wanted to recreate her French toast, fortunately made easy because Ellen has published a cookbook (Breakfast at Birchwood - available at the inn) with recipes from her legendary breakfasts and afternoon treats on the front porch too.
This recipe is perfect for when you're having guests, because it's prepared the night before (and even two nights ahead works fine) and cooked the next morning. The only sad part is getting to the last bite or two.
Orange French Toast
from "Breakfast at Birchwood" cookbook by Ellen Gutman Chenaux
1 cup orange juice (or 2/3 cup orange juice plus 1/3 cup Grand Marnier)
1/3 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
rind of one orange, finely grated
8 slices challah (egg bread), cut 1-inch thick
about 1 cup sliced almonds, (not listed in the cookbook, but served with them at the inn)
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add orange juice, cream or milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and orange rind. Mix well. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, turning to coat both sides. Place the bread in one or two layers in a large dish or pan. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the top of the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, melt a generous amount of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread slices and cook through, browning on both sides. Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and garnish with orange slices. Serve with maple syrup.
(If using the almonds, add them to one side of the bread and place that side down into the butter. Then sprinkle more on the top and flip to cook the second side, adding more butter if necessary.)
The cookbook says this recipe serves 4, but I cut it in half and got three generous servings (six large slices of challah), so I think it's not unrealistic to expect 6 servings when making the full recipe.