And after spending several days with close friends in Tucson (along with a road trip to Bisbee and Tombstone) on this relatively short-lived vacation, it was time to return to life in the midwest. Thankfully Mother Nature helped to ease this transition by gracing us with several days of spectacular cloud filled blue skies. Not that they compared to those Arizona skies, but something was better than nothing.
One inch thick slices of bread are quickly dipped into an egg-milk mixture and arranged in overlapping slices in a buttered casserole dish. Any remaining liquid is poured evenly over the bread. The important take away here is that you want the bread fully coated before covering the dish and refrigerating overnight. Note: You can also first arrange the bread slices in the dish and then pour over the egg mixture, spooning it between each of the slices and ever so lightly pressing down on the bread so it briefly submerges into the liquid. Either option works.
Baked Praline French Toast Casserole (slight adaption to Baked French Toast Casserole shared in Marcia Adams' Heirloom Recipes cookbook)
1 loaf (16 ounces) french bread, challah, or brioche (day old if possible)
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/4 cups toasted, then chopped pecan halves
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
Optional but highly recommended: Maple syrup or honey for serving
1. Generously butter a 9"x13" (or equivalent) casserole dish. Set aside.
2. Slice bread into 1 inch thick slices. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Mix until well combined (no yellow egg streaks).
4. Dip each slice of bread into egg mixture and begin to line the prepared casserole dish in overlapping slices. Pour remaining egg mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5. To make praline topping, mix the butter, brown sugar, chopped pecans, corn syrup and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well blended. Note: If making night before baking the casserole, cover and refrigerate overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
7. Place casserole on large baking sheet.
8. Spread or drop spoonfuls of the praline topping evenly over the bread.
9. Bake for 40 minutes or until the casserole is puffed and medium golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with maple syrup or honey.
Note: Serves 7 generously and 10 adequately.
Sunrise in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at Maricopa Point.
Nearing sunset at Yavapai Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Desert View Watchtower, designed by American architect Mary Colter (1932), on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.