Your New Year’s Breakfast: Skiers French Toast

There is a recipe that I’ve known for years as “your mom’s French toast.”  Popular at any brunch gathering, but especially on New Year’s Day, this casserole is delicious and easy.  Especially on a holiday when you are likely to be very tired and perhaps slightly, um,  “dehydrated” in the morning, the beauty of this breakfast is that you make it the night before.  In fact, if your New Year’s Eve celebration starts early, you can even put it together the afternoon before with no ill effects.   And on New Year’s Day, if you’ve got 45 minutes and a working oven, my mom’s French toast can be yours too!

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My mom and my cousin Jamie, Christmas 1988.  This old photo does not accurately capture how shiny this blouse was.  Very, VERY 1988.

Somewhere, my mom is pretty angry with me for posting this picture from Christmas 1988.  And she likely wouldn’t be too pleased that I’m about to tell the secret of “her” French toast… that it is actually from a cookbook!   Page 67 of The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook: Great American B&Bs and Their Recipes from All Fifty States (which, through that link, you can get on Amazon for as low as $.25!), to be exact.  Each recipe in the book includes a blurb about the B&B where it originated, as well as a photo and address.  Unfortunately, my research on Google indicates that the Pentwater Inn B&B in Pentwater, Michigan, the originator of this Skiers French toast, is no longer in business.  However, the recipe lives on in the stained page of my mom’s original 1991 copy of the cookbook, and on New Year’s Day (and plenty of others) in my house every year.

This recipe is infinitely forgiving and flexible.  It is easily halved (use an 8×8 square pan instead of a 9×13 & reduce cook time slightly), you can substitute different breads and milks (whole, skim, half & half, almond), and add cinnamon, orange zest, or any other flavor you desire.  This Christmas, I discovered that I really like making homemade panettone, and I have leftovers galore, which I am using for my Skiers French toast.  My mom usually used a baguette, but just about any bread will suffice.  I am copying the original recipe exactly below, but feel free to get creative!  Any version of this will make your house smell amazing on New Year’s (or any other) Day!

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[Not into breakfast, but still need something to make for Sunday night?  Check out Grandma’s 1-2-3 Hors D’Ouevres, a family NYE classic!]

Skiers French Toast

from the Pentwater Inn Bed & Breakfast
Pentwater, MI
excerpted from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Martha W. Murphy

serves 6 to 8

This makes a delicious French toast casserole, particularly suitable for winter as its name implies.  Busy cooks will like the fact that the recipe must be assembled and refrigerated overnight, to be baked in the morning.  As with all French toast recipes, use a good bakery or home-baked loaf of white bread.

 

Skiers French Toast
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup (light or dark)*
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 loaf white bread, thickly sliced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan combine the syrup, butter, and brown sugar; simmer until syrupy. Pour this mixture into a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Slice the loaf into thick slices, remove the crusts, and place on the syrup in the baking pan. You will have 2 even layers.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning leave the casserole at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Serve with butter and a selection of syrups.
Notes
*I never include the corn syrup because I never have any! I imagine it gives the caramel sauce a smoother texture, but the toast is plenty delicious without.

 

Whether or not you enjoy this Monday morning, we wish all readers of Grandma’s Icebox a healthy, happy and peaceful new year!  

Our goal for 2018 is to bring more recipes and stories to this site, so please stay tuned!

Some of my favorite cookbooks…

Happy New Year!   The fresh start of a new year is always a great time to get your home in order — and if you think I’m the only one with that idea, just check out the sale prices on home organization products in your local stores — everyone is doing it!  It’s a nice time to go through old holiday decorations, your closets, and cupboards.  And while I can regularly produce big garbage bags full of old clothes and housewares from my home to donate, I have a very, very hard time parting with books… but I don’t have any problem with that!  Books don’t take up a lot of space (well, one at a time they don’t take up a lot of space) and they are amazing time capsules.  Since I have been going through my cookbooks this week, I thought I’d share with you some of the favorites that I’ve used for inspiration on this website, and included links to the two that you can actually buy online (#2 and #6).

  1. The George Worthington Company is no more, but this book from 1990 is a personal favorite.  Thus far I’ve only posted “How to Boil Water” on this site, but all of the other recipes in the book are for real food and I look forward to sharing more of them.  My mom had several contributions published (yes, she was a good cook but… full disclosure: she also had a slight advantage since my father was president of the company).
  2. The Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-by-Step Cookbook was THE cookbook when I was growing up.  Published in 1978, my mom’s copy was already pretty old and worn when I started to be interested in cooking, and today it’s a stained, dog-eared mess.  It still has little pieces of paper stuck between pages, marking things I wanted to make when I was old enough to read a recipe but young enough to do little more than make a total mess of a kitchen.  However, the techniques still hold up!  It’s a great resource for basics, like how to make pancakes or how to brew coffee.  It’s also full of delightful late-70s photography (seen in my post about Minted Lime Soda).  I was super excited to find a second copy of this very book at a Goodwill store recently, thinking it was a really rare find… only to learn that you can buy it on Amazon starting at $1 (click on the title above).  I highly recommend this addition to your library.
  3. This book has seen better days, but it’s where I found the recipe for Pistachio Delight, so I’m glad I kept it around.  It’s from my aunt’s office in 1992 at Progressive Insurance. Her department used the exact same publisher as The George Worthington Company.  The early 1990s must have been really profitable for Cookbook Publishers, Inc.  (who are still in business today!) and Cool Whip, which features very prominently in this compilation.
  4. This cookbook was gifted to my cousin when she was very young and that label, in her childhood handwriting, is so no one stole it from her!  Woman’s Glory was the very first cookbook published by the Slovenian Women’s Union (SWU), and this is a later edition, printed in 1977.  It’s the source for the post on JFK and Potica, the Mother’s Day Marshmallow Roll, and Graduation Party Special!, among others.
  5. I don’t own Pots and Pans, but that was the predecessor to this one, More Pots and Pans.  This was a 1998 publication of SWU and I have a copy autographed by my grandma!  It’s where I found the recipe for Farina Dumplings.
  6. Sadly for you, most of the books I’ve listed here are hard to get your hands on.  However, you can actually buy this one!  In 2015, the Slovenian Women’s Union became the more inclusive Slovenian Union of America and they published a new cookbook in a new, photo-filled format that is arranged by seasons and holidays.  It’s available for purchase on the SUA website (linked above).  So far I’ve used it for Slovenian Coleslaw and Medenjaki. I look forward to sharing more seasonal recipes.

Please use the comments section below to share any of your favorites that I should know about! (especially if they are still in print and I can add them to my collection!)

 

 

How to Make Dough in a Drafty Kitchen

I wrote this piece a while ago for another purpose, but I think it’s very applicable to this time of year when so many of us are dreaming up holiday baking projects!  Whether you are planning ambitious holiday gifts of homemade potica, or just craving homemade pizza, the essay below includes some tips I’ve developed for better baking in cold weather.  I hope you find it helpful, and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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I used to think that bread, or any yeast-related baked good, was just really difficult to make.  Often I tried recipes that just didn’t work.  Many times I tried to throw away super dense, awful loaves of bread that my husband wanted to eat anyway (usually, I won, because they were gross).  I’m no professional chef, but as a pretty competent home baker it was frustrating to have this one thing so out of reach.

So I started doing a lot more reading about bread.  And then a few years ago I became obsessed (as everyone should) with The Great British Baking Show on PBS.  The show is a weekend competition for crazy talented home bakers, and the things that they make are absolutely magical.  And the more episodes of the show I watched, the more I realized what my baking was missing (besides an enviable British accent and metric tons of talent):

A PROVING DRAWER

In America, it’s known as a “proofing drawer” (or a “warming drawer”) and is found in professional kitchens.  It provides a warm, contained, draft-free area for dough to rise.

proofing drawer

One of the biggest barriers to baking bread successfully in my kitchen is  that it happens to be the coldest, draftiest room in the house… totally the opposite of what bread needs.  I have devised a few ways around this (until I get a new kitchen with a built-in proofing drawer, of course).

  1. If you happen to have a load of wet laundry, place your dough, covered with a damp towel, on top of the dryer while it’s on.  The humidity and slight warmth provide a great environment for rising.
  2. If you have a microwave, you have a draft-free location! (the same is true about your oven!)  If the room is cold, place glasses of warm water (I use the hottest tap water I can get) in the corners of the microwave, then put your dough, covered with plastic wrap or a towel, in the middle, and close the door.  This almost always works perfectly. dough_micro3
  3. Use a heating pad.  I got this tip from King Arthur Flour when I recently followed their directions for making a sourdough starter. The starter, wrapped in a towel, cozied up against a heating pad on the lowest setting and tucked into an unplugged crockpot received just the right amount of warmth (note: I did experiment initially with my crockpot on the “keep warm” setting and I essentially murdered my first starter). dough_starter crockpot
  4. Bake only in an un-air-conditioned house at the height of summer (this method is horribly uncomfortable, but wow, a bowl of pizza dough placed on my enclosed sun porch practically climbed up the sides and out a window when I made it this past July).

The other thing I learned was to know a little bit about yeast.  When I was especially motivated to make bread a few years ago, I bought a giant bag of yeast and thought I could just stick it in the cupboard and use it until it was gone.  Nope.  It doesn’t stay active forever, and purchasing yeast in small quantities is best for all but commercial bakers.  Yeast is best stored in the freezer.  There is some great information about yeast at this website.

Truly, since I’ve learned to take better care of the yeast and have hacked my kitchen’s drafty climate, I am having much more success with baking bread and other doughs.  Baking bread requires precision and patience, but is very possible for those of us lacking magic powers and professional appliances.  Here are some of my successes from the past few weeks:

baking collage

While it is very justifiable to blame baking problems on your kitchen, it doesn’t mean you are destined to failure!