I love breakfast food and often find it difficult to decide what meal I want when we go out for brunch. It is always a toss-up between ordering eggs, like Eggs Benedict or in the pancake / french toast category. Breakfast meals are sweet and savory comfort foods that just make the day start off on a happy note. French toast made with good quality bread soaked in a light vanilla custard always makes me happy. Yet today, I wanted to do something slightly different with some make in advance options and fruit topping. Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote, is a special occasion breakfast or brunch with easy do-ahead preparations.
Baked French Toast
The type of bread is the first key ingredient. I recommend a Country White Boule or Country White Sourdough Boule. The bread is sturdy and will hold up to an overnight soaking without falling apart. I bought my Country White Sourdough Boule at Whole Foods. It does not have a thick crust which is better suited for french toast. Challah or Brioche are other good choices, but I have yet to test them in this recipe. I do not recommend using regular sandwich bread as it will just fall apart before you start.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make french toast by the time I get to the last 4 pieces the egg and milk custard is used up and I need to make more. The first slices of french toast soaked up more than their fair share of custard leaving none to spare for the last few slices. In this recipe, you soak all the bread slices at the same time overnight and every slice gets an even soaking of vanilla-nutmeg custard.
Another advantage of making baked french toast, is you bake the slices of bread at the same time in the oven. This frees up the cooks’ time to enjoy a cup of coffee or make the compote. At first, I was doubtful that baking the french toast would produce browned slices of french toast, but it does. Baked french toast has a great texture with crispy and buttery browned edges and soft and tender insides.
Apple Cranberry Compote
The compote combines fresh apples and cranberries with a spiced apple cider reduction. The fruit is gently cooked in butter until the cranberries start to pop. For this recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar, so you can taste the fruit and not the sugar. The cranberries are tart and contrast with the sweet apples. If the cranberries are too tart feel free to add more sugar a tablespoon at a time but make sure all the sugar dissolves before you remove the compote off the heat.
I made the compote with Fuji apples because they were on sale, but any apple that keeps its’ shape will work. Golden Delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, or Gala apples are all good choices. If you use Granny Smith apples, then you may need more sugar.
Use real apple cider and not apple juice. It just does not taste the same using apple juice. The apple cider reduction is flavored with cinnamon and fresh ginger, that steep in the apple cider while it simmers. Real maple syrup and orange juice add natural sugar to sweeten the compote giving the compote extra flavor the highlights the fruit and not the sugar.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote. I love the idea of using eggnog for the custard in French toast, but I decided to tone down the amount of sugar in the compote, and over-the-top sweetness in store-bought eggnog. In this recipe, I use half-and-half and milk in the base with eggs, and flavor the custard with vanilla, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. If the eggnog custard appeals to you, substitute the milk and half & half with 4 cups (1 quart) of eggnog and only use 4 eggs instead of 7. Also, do not add sugar to the mix.
Transferring the saturated bread slices from the baking dish to the sheet pan, and turning them over to brown, requires a thin and flexible spatula. The best tool is a fish spatula and is the most versatile kitchen tool I own. The flexible and thin metal base easily slides under all types of food and does not stick to the surface like with most spatulas. I own the Victorinox one, but the Wusthof fish spatula is highly recommended by America’s Test Kitchen.
More Breakfast Love
More Cranberry Love
This recipe is part of a collaborative social media project featuring the beloved fall fruit, cranberries. This collaboration would not exist without the efforts of Ruth and Rebecca of @squaremealroundtable and Annie Garcia of @whatannieseating. Thank you, Annie, Rebecca, and Ruth for all your efforts and keeping the seasonal collaborative projects going. Check out what all the food bloggers and Instagramers have created by following #yesyourcranberry on Instagram or click on the links below.
Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
I deliberately used less sugar in the fruit compote and custard, because every baked French toast breakfast I’ve eaten is cloyingly sweet. I like the tartness of the cranberries to counter the sweet apples. Add more sugar, either in the egg custard or fruit compote to your taste, but please use restraint. Or, pass some maple syrup around with the french toast and apple cranberry compote if you prefer the compote with a more syrupy consistency and sweeter.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote.
- 1 ¾ - 1 lb. (350 - 450 g) loaf of Country White Boule
- 7 eggs
- 2 cups (500 ml) half and half
- 2 cup (500 ml) whole milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 TB (56 g) melted butter divided for the baking pan and top of French toast during baking
Apple Cranberry Compote
- 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices of fresh ginger
- ¼ cup (60 ml) real maple syrup
- ¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice
- 6 TB (74 g) butter divided
- 3 apples cut into ½” pieces
- 2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
Prepare the French Toast
Cut the boule in half across the equator, then cut each half in 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices. Arrange the bread slices on their sides, equally divided between two buttered 9 x 13 xx 2 inches (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dishes. Set aside.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or wire whisk until blended. Add the milk, half and half, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar and whisk until combined.
Pour half of the egg-milk mixture into one baking dish with the bread slices, then pour the remaining in the second baking dish. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Bake the French Toast
Preheat the oven at 450°F (230°C / Gas Mark 8) with rack in the middle position.
Melt the butter then use half of the melted butter to baste a rimmed sheet pan, large enough to hold all the slices of french toast. Arrange the bread slices, on their sides, on the sheet pan. A thin flexible spatula is the best tool or an offset spatula. Baste the remaining melted butter to on the top of each slice.
Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the bread slices over then continue to bake 10 minutes more, or until each slice is golden brown with crispy edges and soft in the middle.
Serve the baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
Apple Cranberry Compote
Make the apple cider reduction
Add the apple cider, cinnamon stick, slices of ginger, maple syrup, and orange juice to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring the cider to a boil then turn down the heat slightly to keep a brisk boil. Cook until the cider reduces to 1 cup, (250 ml), about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices. Whisk in 2 TB of butter.
Meanwhile, melt 4 TB of the butter in a large pot like a Dutch Oven. Add the apple pieces and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cranberries and sugar, stir then cook until the cranberries pop and the fruit begins to soften but maintains their shape.
Add the apple cider reduction to the apples and cranberries, stir and cook at a simmer for 3 minutes.
The compote can be made up to two days in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until ready to serve. Heat up on the stove, then serve.
Serve with the Baked French Toast.
What Annie’s Eating Cranberry Mojitos
Square Meal Round Table’s Cranberry Orange Streusel Pie
Easy and Delish — Avocado Cranberry Hummus Dip
Flottelottehaan Buchteln with Cranberry Oranges Jam
The Cooking of Joy’s Cranberry Curd Tart
Jessie Sheehan Bakes – Cranberry Buckle
Ciao Chow Bambina – Cranberry Pecan Cracker Spread
Baking The Goods – Cranberry Apple Brown Butter Crumble Pie
Katiebird Bakes – Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Rolls
Crumb Top Baking’s Cranberry Orange Overnight Oatmeal Muffins
The Baking Fairy – Vegan Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake
You Can Live Rich On Less – Cranberry Cherry Tarts
Sift & Simmer – White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Bappy Girl – https://bappygirlyum.blogspot.com/
Ronnie Fein – Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/on-hanukkah-lets-not-forget-that-a-woman-played-a?rq=Cranberries
Lemon Thyme and Ginger https://lemonthymeandginger.com/baked-french-toast-apple-cranberry-compote
Cranberry Agua Fresca with Mint and Lime: http://www.holajalapeno.com/2016/11/cranberry-agua-fresca.html
Cranberry Pie with Dried Figs and Cashews: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/honey-cashew-pie
Susannah Chen’s Cranberry Pico de Gallo
Katherine in Brooklyn: Cranberry Cinnamon Buns
Pie Girl Bakes: Dark Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies
Clean Plate Club: Glazed Cream Puffs with Cranberry Buttercream
Tiny Kitchen Capers: http://www.tinykitchencapers.com/white-chocolate-cranberry-oatmeal-cookies/
Le Petit Eats: Dark Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Sugared Cranberry
Prickly Fresh’s: Cranberry Crostini with Prosciutto & Port Salut
Zestful Kitchen: Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Curd
Simple and Sweet Food: Fresh Ricotta and Spiced Cranberry Crostini
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
When you want something different from the traditional bread stuffing on Thanksgiving, wild rice stuffing is a great alternative. Wild rice has an earthy appeal that is so well suited for fall and winter meals. It is generously filled with complementary fall flavors with grains, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts. To liven up these woodsy fall notes I added dried cranberries for a sweet and tangy zing and lots of fresh herbs. It is everything you expect in a stuffing recipe minus the bread.
I love wild rice and have always wanted to make wild rice stuffing, yet it has taken me all these years to finally do so. Tradition has a strong hold on what I make for our holiday meal. If it were only up to me, I would experiment and try new recipes every year. Yet, tradition overrules. Everyone has their favorite food that must be on the menu because Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without it. For my sons, that special holiday dish is pineapple stuffing, for me, it is all of the side dishes, but I particularly like my favorite stuffing recipe and pumpkin pie.
Wild Rice Stuffing
In the past, I sampled wild rice stuffing made with all wild rice and aromatics. As much as I like wild rice, I prefer it in a blend with long grain white or brown rice. The rice blend flavor is less overpowering and doesn’t compete with the other foods. Within this recipe layers of flavor builds from slowly caramelizing the onions then sautéing the mushrooms in the same pan. These flavors take time to develop, so be patient and cook the onions slowly until they turn golden and sweet. I promise it is worth it.
I adapted this recipe from an old Thanksgiving Menu article in Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms. My cookbook collection is filled with binders of old food magazine articles I read since the early 1990’s. At the time, any recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard to part with as I was dreaming of the day when it will be my turn to host a family holiday meal. I own binders full of recipes from old food magazines that still hold my interest 20 years later.
You have two choices for finishing the stuffing. One, stuff the turkey with the wild rice stuffing. Or, bake the stuffing in a baking dish. Both options have their advantages. If you stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, the stuffing absorbs the flavors of your turkey and gets very moist. The opposite happens, if you bake the stuffing. The stuffing stays moist, but the top gets crispy. The crunchy bits are Joe’s favorite part of the stuffing.
If you choose to stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, you must cook the stuffing until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) because it is cooked inside a raw turkey. Often, the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If that is the case, remove the stuffing and finish it in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350°F (176°C) oven, until it reaches the proper temperature.
Stuffing or Pilaf?
You can prepare this recipe with two options. First, prepare the wild rice stuffing as directed using the two-stage cooking process. However, if you want to make this for a regular dinner, as a side with a roast pork or chicken, serve the rice after it finishes cooking on the stove. The rice is plenty done plus it saves you 40 minutes if you skip the baking. For extra flavor toast the wild rice and white rice in butter and make this recipe as a pilaf.
Dietary Challenges Creating a Holiday Menu
When I make a holiday meal for my family, there are many types of diets I must take into consideration. Generally speaking, my meal needs to satisfy an omnivore diet, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Sometimes dairy-free, low salt restrictions, and nut free restrictions need consideration. Satisfying everyone in the family requires some thoughtful planning.
Fortunately, wild rice stuffing is one of those side dishes that easily fits into all my dietary considerations. It is in the one size fits all category. First, it is gluten-free, so you can check consideration off your list. Second, cook the rice in vegetable stock and bake it in the oven for a plant-based meal. You get bonus points with your vegetarian and vegan friends because combining wild rice, white rice, and nuts create a meal with complementary proteins. Low or no salt store-bought stocks are good options, but homemade stock is even better for keeping salt intake down.
Fortunately, when I host a holiday meal, I do not have to make it all by myself. People enjoy contributing to a portion of the dinner. It makes them feel connected to the event and not burden the host with all the work and expense. Recruit as much help as you need and don’t be shy about it.
Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries
Wild rice stuffing is a great alternative to bread stuffing. It has all the flavors you love in stuffing from the caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms, and toasted walnuts with an added boost from dried cranberries and fresh herbs. This is a great gluten-free stuffing alternative that all will enjoy.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms, I believe dating back to 2000.
You can prepare the wild rice stuffing a day or two in advance kept covered in the refrigerator then bake in the oven when needed. This recipe is easily scaled up or down as needed.
- 4-5 onions around 2- 2 ½ lbs (1 kg
- 1 cup (3 oz / 87 g) walnuts
- 8 TB (113 g) butter, divided one stick
- 1 ¼ lb (575 g) assorted wild mushrooms like crimini and shiitake stemmed and sliced
- 3 TB chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 TB (30 ml) Brandy or Dry Sherry optional
- 5 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tsp fresh sage minced
- 1 1/3 cup (226 g / 8 oz) wild rice
- 1 ¼ cup (245 g / 8.5 oz) long grain white rice
- 1 cup (123 g) dried cranberries
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- 6 -8 large sprigs of Italian Parsley
Peel and slice the onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice each half in half-moons. Set aside.
Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, to just before smoking hot. Toast the walnuts in the hot skillet. Keep the walnuts moving and jumping around the skillet so they do not brown and burn. The walnuts are toasted when you get a nutty aroma and the skillet seems shinier from the oils released from the walnuts, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and tip the walnuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Melt 4 TB (56 g) butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops sizzling, add the onions slices and turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir to coat the onions with butter and cook the onions until caramelized about 30 minutes or longer. It is important to caramelize the onions slowly otherwise they will burn. Stir the onions every now and then to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The browner you let the onions get the more flavor they bring to the wild rice stuffing. Add in a pinch of Kosher salt.
Once the onions are caramelized, scrape them into a bowl and set aside. Place the pot or sauté pan back on the stove with the heat up to medium-high.
Melt the remaining 4 TB (56 g) butter then add the mushrooms, pinch of the Kosher salt, and 1 tsp minced thyme. Stir to coat the mushrooms with butter, then sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and cooked all the way through. There are too many mushrooms in on pot for them to brown, but if you get some browning on the mushroom all the better as it adds flavor. Add the brandy or sherry (optional), and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.
Meanwhile, while the onions and mushrooms are cooking, heat up the stock with 2 tsp minced sage and 1 TB thyme and remaining Kosher salt in a large Dutch Oven with at least a 5 qt capacity to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes.
Mix in the white rice and cover. Simmer until the white rice is just getting tender and most of the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.
Stir in the caramelized onions, mushrooms, cranberries, walnuts with the remaining tablespoon of thyme, 1 tsp minced sage, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Finish by stuffing the turkey with the wild rice stuffing or bake the stuffing in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dish.
To bake stuffing in the turkey:
Chop 4 of the parsley sprigs and add to the wild rice stuffing. Stir to combine. Loosely fill the neck and main cavities of the turkey with the stuffing. Loosely sew the skin flap over the neck area to secure the rice in place. Truss the legs of the turkey together. Add the remaining stuffing to a buttered baking dish large enough to hold the leftovers. Cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with the turkey, until heated through about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing then bake until the top of the stuffing is slightly crisp.
Bake the stuffing in the turkey until the turkey is done, and remove the stuffing while the turkey rests. Immediately check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C). If the internal temperature is lower than 165°F (74°C) remove the stuffing from the cavities and place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Continue to bake the stuffing until the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C)
Remove the stuffing from the cavities and spoon into a serving bowl. Mince the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Keep warm until time to serve. Serve hot.
To bake stuffing in a baking dish:
Butter a 9 – 13- 2-inch baking dish. Add half of the minced parsley to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. Tip the rice stuffing into the baking dish then cover with a buttered piece of foil, butter side down. Bake in a 350°F (176°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil and bake until it starts to crisp on top, another 20 minutes or so. You do not have to concern yourself with the internal temperature reaching 165°F (74°C) because it was not cooked inside a turkey. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot.
I believe the wild rice stuffing is delicious and ready to serve just after cooking on the stove. If you do not want to go through the extra step of baking it, however, this extra step gives you a crispy top, feel free to do so. Wild rice with mushrooms and cranberries makes a great rice side dish. This is a hearty flavored rice meal and will work well with oven roasted or grilled meats, and fish like sea bass, tuna, salmon or swordfish.
You can substitute the long grain white rice with long grain brown rice. Cooking times will vary and take longer with brown rice.
Extra mushroom flavor
For extra wild mushroom flavor, add 1 tablespoon of porcini mushroom powder to the stock. You can also reconstitute some dried wild mushrooms like porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, then chop them up. Add them to the sautéed mushrooms.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Cranberry sauce is an essential Thanksgiving side dish. I am so accustomed to eating turkey with cranberry sauce it is hard to imagine serving turkey without it. Of all the side dishes made for this yearly feast, it is one of the easiest. The sauce takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare, then chills in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. It is so quick and easy, I do not understand why more people don’t make it. The canned sauce is convenient, but there is no comparison to homemade cranberry sauce.
As a kid, I knew there must be a better alternative to the canned sauce. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mom proudly displayed the solid jellied cranberry sauce on its’ own plate. It’s cylinder shape and distinctive ribbed markings revealed its canned origin and was futile to disguise it. As each person reached over to slice off sections of the jellied cranberry cylinder, one never knew where it would roll. It slid around so much, we needed an extra utensil to hold it still. More times than not you heard the distinctive thwack of a knife hitting the plate when it slipped off the cranberry sauce. I never knew if it was going to slide away and knock over the gravy boat.
Passing the cranberry sauce around the table was challenging as well. It took adept balancing skills to keep it from rolling off the plate and landing on your lap. Every holiday as each family member carefully carved out their portion, I secretly chuckled to myself wondering if this was the year the cranberry sauce got away.
I am happy to say, eating canned cranberry sauce did not turn me off this condiment for good. I did like it, but I wanted something fresher. Once I was on my own, I did not waste time and quickly learned to make it from scratch. In fact, I learned how to make homemade sauce before I learned how to roast a turkey. In my opinion, homemade cranberry sauce is key to tying the whole meal together.
Whenever I host Thanksgiving it is for a large crowd of 30 family members. Everyone contributes a dish for this feast. The cranberry sauce must compliment every and any side dish in the buffet. As a result, my recipe does not have a lot of different herbs, spices or alcohol, but offers the classic pairing of tart cranberries with bitter-sweet orange zest and marmalade. This combination of bittersweet flavors goes with everything.
More holiday side dishes: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
I believe the original recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, probably around the early 1990’s. The publisher and author information are missing, but I believe this is an accurate guess since I subscribed to Bon Appetit at the time. I made one small change to the original.
The original recipe includes frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail. Unfortunately, finding frozen cranberry juice is getting harder and harder with each passing year. As a result, I make it one of two ways: reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice to one cup, or just add one cup of regular cranberry juice. Either way the cranberry sauce has a deep red color with tart cranberry flavor. If you can find frozen cranberry juice, feel free to use it.
I call it Triple C Cranberry sauce because it has three different cranberry ingredients, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, and cranberry juice. It also has three layers of orange flavorings, orange zest, orange juice and orange marmalade. Altogether these 2 x triple layers of cranberries and oranges, makes a tart and fruity cranberry sauce with a touch of sweetness for balance. It is not too thick or too thin, and spoons easily over your Thanksgiving meal. I promise, this cranberry sauce won’t roll away.
Triple C Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup (250 ml) cranberry juice, or frozen juice concentrate thawed
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar
- 1- 12 oz (350 g) package of fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries
- 3 TB orange marmalade
- 2 TB orange zest
- 2 TB fresh orange juice
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
Add the cranberry juice and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and the dried cranberries to the juice. Stir and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 - 7 minutes. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reach the desired texture of popped cranberries to whole ones. I think it is nice to have an even ratio of both.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to evenly combine.
Pour the cranberry sauce into a storage container and cool. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.