January 19, 2011

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Let's talk breakfast, shall we? I usually just eat cereal for breakfast during the week (or a stray cracker from my desk drawer at work), so come Saturday or Sunday morning I like to spend a little extra time and effort making a yummy meal. Johnny is a huge fan of breakfast foods - pancakes, waffles, bacon egg and cheese bagels (ahem) - and would love to eat a giant breakfast everyday. There's no shortage of breakfast/brunch spots in our neighborhood, but being a vegan means that my options are severely limited. I can no longer just go down to my favorite diner and order pancakes anymore (not even the banana pancakes at Lyric Diner [whimper]). So I decided to take matters into my own hands and develop a breakfast recipe to satisfy us both.

As inspiration, I used a dish that my mom has made for our family on Christmas morning every year for the past decade. It's an incredible baked french toast that she prepares the night before, chills in the refrigerator overnight, and bakes in the morning. It is the only time of year we eat it and it is insanely good! However, the original has eggs, butter, milk, and cream cheese in it, so I wanted to create a recipe that is equally special, but vegan-friendly. I'm happy to say I made this for my family on Christmas morning this year and everyone ate it up! Score! I served it with tempeh bacon, which, if you haven't tried it, is probably the best damn thing ever invented. Not even joking.

Note on the recipe: this is really what I consider a "base" recipe, meaning it can be easily adapted to what you have on hand. Experiment with the type of bread you use, the type of "milk" you use, the spices you use (and how much), etc. When you combine bread, apples and cinnamon, the finished product is almost guaranteed to taste good! The brown rice syrup can probably be left out if you want to add additional margarine and brown sugar. However, I recommend buying a jar of brown rice syrup and keeping it on hand. It is a less harsh sweetener than sugar and can be used in lots of recipes. I use Lundberg's Sweet Dreams Brown Rice Syrup which I got at Whole Foods for $6.00 or so. Also note that this recipe tries to be healthy, but it's really not the most nutritious thing to eat on a daily basis, so it's probably best not to make this too often. Without further ado...

That's the French Toast in the pan on the left (tempeh bacon seducing you from the lower right... hello there...)

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Serves 8

1 loaf whole wheat French Bread (I have also used semolina bread and it was delicious)
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, hemp, etc.)
3 tbs. cornstarch
4 tbs. white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice or nutmeg

3 tbs. vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tbs. brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice or nutmeg
5-6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (use a firm variety)

1 cup walnut pieces (toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant)
Maple Syrup
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Slice bread into 2" pieces. Place into a 10"x14" glass baking pan. In a large bowl whisk together milk, cornstarch, flour, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. Pour mixture over the bread in the baking pan and turn the bread over a few times to make sure the mixture is equally absorbed.
Melt the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in the brown sugar, brown rice syrup, cinnamon and allspice. Add in your apple slices and toss until they are coated in the brown sugar sauce. Pour the apple topping over the bread in the baking pan and evenly distribute. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted walnut pieces and drizzle with maple syrup (the french toast is not too sweet, so the syrup is a necessity in my opinion). Eat it all up!

Nutritional Info (approximate/per serving - does not include optional walnut or maple syrup toppings): Calories 317; Fat 4.9g (Saturated 1g); Sodium 403mg; Carbs 62.2g; Fiber 5.1g; Sugars 26.7g; Protein 6.6g; Vitamin A 4%; Vitamin C 12%; Calcium 9%; Iron 15%

This picture makes it look like my family is a figment of my imagination. I swear they're real and they joined me for breakfast right after this pic was taken!


  1. That sounds really yummy -- and I like that you put the nutritional info at the bottom! Also enjoyed the "figment of your imagination" family. Is the bread vegan? Where could we find such a thing. Also, is there a vegan egg substitute out there? I was vegan for a while and never found one. :-/

    - Jen :)

  2. Jen, you're my first commenter! :) A lot of the bread that you find at the grocery store is indeed vegan, I usually just grab a loaf and start reading through the ingredients. Even breads that the store bakes, like french bread, usually have the ingredients listed. Egg substitute can be tricky. There is a product called Ener-G Egg Replacer (Whole Foods has it) that is powdered protein, you add it to water and then mix it in - best for baked goods, etc. I've never had the desire to try it, I go the more natural route with banana, applesauce, or ground flax seed which are all great binders. For breakfast type dishes, tofu is the best egg substitute. I'll post some recipes soon that replace eggs in creative ways. Thanks for checking out my blog!

  3. I am going to make this while I am off this week. It looks so delicious. I like how the nuts are optional because I love nuts but some of the kids don't.

  4. Hi Donna! I hope you and the kids enjoyed it! I made a modified version of this for Christmas morning where I pan fried the french toast and made a separate apple cinnamon topping. Such a good combo!