French Toast Souffle with Summer Berries

[NB: A huge "THANK YOU" to all of you who sent good wishes my way yesterday. I really wasn't intending to sound so "woe-is-me" (I do that quite enough around the diet issues, thank you), but just reflecting on how the day could elicit positive vibes for all concerned.  Your comments sure worked toward that end for me, though: big hugs to all of you! ]

In my mind, here’s the perfect way to wake up on a Sunday morning: 

Outside, the weather is balmy. A mild breeze whispers through the slightly opened window, curtains undulating softly with each invisible breath.  The sun makes its presence known through the diaphanous curtain as it tickles the pillows of our bed with little sparkles of laughing light. Elsie pads quietly over to my side of the bed and, as gently as a rose petal floating to the ground, taps my open palm with her soft, moist nose. I open my eyes slowly. Glancing toward the window, I stretch luxuriously and think, “Ahh, yes! Another lovely, sunny Sunday! This is a perfect time to have. . . BREAKFAST.” 

Unfortunately, the reality yesterday morning was more like this scenario:

It’s dark; the cold, clammy night air refuses to release its death grip on the house, barreling its way into the room through the open window.  Thin and defenseless, the curtains ripple and flap, rousing me with their wistful “flltt, flltt, fllllltttt” tapping an SOS against the pane.  Chaser thumps enthusiastically over to my side of the bed and, with a serviceable impersonation of an approaching foghorn, targets my exposed ear with her wet, cold nose. My eyes pop awake and dart toward the window: monochrome grey sky, raindrops still clinging to the glass. Outside, there’s a constant flutter of leaves pelted by rain.  I jerk upright, reach for the bedside lamp and lament, “Aaarrghh!  Another crappy, rainy, gloomy Sunday.” But wait; pause. My smile returns, and I reconsider: “Oh, well.  Typical Toronto day. But at least it’s time for–BREAKFAST!”

Like bright copper kettles and whiskers on kittens, breakfast does seem to make everything a little better, doesn’t it?

Well, as soon as I read about the second Recipe Remix blog event, hosted by Robin of Made with Love and Danielle of Make No Little Meals, I knew I had to enter. The event focuses on breakfast foods, asking bloggers to “remix” a traditional food in a new way.  Admittedly, the breakfast pickings were pretty slim (ah, if only I could say as much for my thighs): six dishes, five of which contained eggs, and all of which contained wheat–both no-no’s for this brekkie lover.  Initially, I narrowed the choice down to pancakes, crepes, or French toast. 

Now, as much as I love pancakes and crepes, I’d already dealt with both of those on this blog. Time for a new challenge.  But why, oh why did it have to be French toast?  I hate French toast.  Okay, maybe that’s being slightly dishonest.  The truth is, I TOTALLY, WHOLLY, ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY hate French toast. Can’t stand it. Never touch the stuff. Blech! French Toast is my mortal enemy! And I’m really not particularly fond of it, either.

I’m not sure why I developed this bone-chilling aversion to what is, arguably, a well-loved (and certainly popular) breakfast staple.  Perhaps it was my mother’s tendency to use approximately half a tub of margarine when frying the stuff, resulting in that previously unknown breakfast delicacy, Deep Fried Brick.  Despite the slices fairly floating in grease like aging Floridians at the pool, the toast inevitably still turned out slightly scorched on the outside.  At that point, my mom would stack the slabs on a plate (no blotting on a paper towel for her!) and douse them in corn syrup. The heavy, unctuous substance would spread, a slowly oozing blob that was eventually absorbed by the top slice, leaving it wet, weighted, and about as appetizing as a kitchen sponge just lifted from the bucket of grey, murky, muddy water. Ooh, yum. French toast, anyone?

I knew had to get over my childhood toast trauma.  I decided to approach it like an episode of Iron Chef: I’d been challenged to transform the lowly pain grillé into something mouth-watering, something delectable.  Was I up to the task?  Alas, I couldn’t think of anything.  I was at a loss; I was afraid I’d blow it.  In fact, I was certain I’d be. . . well, toast.

But this blog event was called Recipe REMIX, which meant I had carte blanche to change up the dish any way I wanted.  And who ever said that French Toast has to be fried?  In fact, it was the preparation method alone that rendered the stuff unpalatable to me; change the method, change the result.  Eliminating the frying would also result in a lighter, airier product.  I decided to bake the dish instead, after breaking the bread into smaller bits so they could soak up the liquid ingredients while nestled in a single soufflée dish: a French Toast casserole.

Working with a fairly standard (egg- and dairy-free, of course) mixture for soaking French toast, I added a few extra touches, such as a splash of berry liqueur or some mixed berries as a reminder of spring, a means to elicit that sunshine I missed so much in the morning.

As the mixture baked and browned, the bits of bread continued to soak up the batter, expanding and puffing like a male dove preening for a mate.  It rose up so much, in fact, with such a fluffy and almost mousse-like texture, that I decided to call it “French Toast Soufflé.” 

We ate it warm, bites of spongy, soft bread punctuated with bursts of juicy berries; but it could easily be served cold.  And while I didn’t have time to make any soy-free whipped cream yesterday, a dollop of cream would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of this fruity, light and delectable dish. 

Go on, indulge.  Why not have a big bowl for breakfast? It will make the rest of the day seem that much better.

 French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries

I think this is what someone like Nigella would call a “summer pudding,” though I’ve never had one of those.  It would be a fabulous dish for a springtime brunch buffet, or even as a dessert following a light summer meal. 

8-10 slices stale sourdough spelt or kamut bread

1/4 cup (60 ml.) old-fashioned rolled oats

2-1/2 cups (620 ml.) vanilla rice or soy milk

1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (125 ml.) agave nectar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder

2-3 Tbsp. (30-45 ml.) berry liqueur (framboise, cherry, etc.–I used Cloudberry, but it’s pretty rare)

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) fresh lemon juice or 1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1-1/2 – 2 cups (325 to 500 ml.) fresh or frozen mixed berries

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).  Lightly grease a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) pan or soufflé dish.

Break the bread into bite-sized chunks and place in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a blender, grind the oats until they are the consistency of a coarse meal.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the bread and berries, and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture over the bread in the bowl, pushing the bread down with the back of a spoon so that all pieces are submerged.  Allow to sit 20-30 minutes, pressing the bread back down occasionally, until the bread is completely soaked through (there may still be liquid left in the bottom of the bowl; this is fine).

When the bread is all soaked, spoon half the bread slices and half the remaining liquid into the prepared pan.  Top with about 2/3 of the mixed berries.  Cover the berries with the rest of the bread and liquid, then top with the last 1/3 of the berries. 

Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the centre comes out wet but clean.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Makes about 8 servings.  This is best served the day it’s made, though it can be re-heated the next day.

[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook page.]

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Comments

  1. WOW this looks good. I actually love French toast already, but maybe I will like this even more?

  2. Wowowow, that French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries could make ANYONE feel better – yum!

  3. Oh my goodness, I’m drooling. You’ve perfected French toast!

  4. I love the name of the recipe and it’s absolutely beautiful.

  5. looks gorgeous with all those berries – my mum has given me some old pannetonne that I keep meaning to make bread and butter pudding with. Have many ideas for my pannetonne (probably spelling this wrongly) but berries are high on the list.

    If I may, I can give you some clarification on what Nigella would call it – summer pudding is cold and has mostly berries rather than baked with egg, milk and berries. Nigella would be more likely to call this bread and butter pudding – which is bread baked with milk and eggs like a sort of custard. I never eat summer pudding (too much soggy bread) although my mum makes it frequently, but I always loved it when my mum made bread and butter pudding with jam on the bread and coconut sprinkled on it. But in my mum’s house it would always be dessert not breakfast so I like your naming of it for mornings!

  6. Great blog you have here!

  7. Bloody marvellous.

    Absolutely stellar post. Aging Floridians at the pool…the horror of Deep Fried Brick drenched in awful corn syrup…priceless stuff, Ricki!

    Equally at home as my next foray into dessert, methinks.

    Breakfast…must start enjoying it more.

  8. This looks amazing!! Thanks so much for your entry. I hope you have a new found love for French Toast now :-)

    Look for the roundup around 5/29 – thanks again!

  9. It looks great! And a lot healthier than French toast soaked in margarine, haha.

  10. Very creative Ricki! I would eat this anytime of day! Like right now please.

  11. finally a souffle without eggs that also has berries and is full of nutrients! You rock. I will be makign this as soon as I have berries. As always it looks friggin’ awesome.

    YOU RULE

  12. Hello Gorgeous! Those berries looks absolutely gorgeous. You outdid yourself with this one.

    I laughed at your description of your puppy alarm clock. Our Sami does something very similiar. Usually she just pushes her nose and whiskers to our noses when she wants us to get up. If she really means business, she’ll put her paws on the bed, lift herself up and lick hubby’s bald head. Works every time.

  13. magpie,
    Thanks for your comment! Well, I’d say that if you already like French Toast, then this should be a big hit (I rated it 9/10, with the actual french toast a -15 or so). ;)

    VeggieGirl,
    A lovely pick-me-up (and I bet even better with actual fresh berries!!)

    Romina,
    I have to agree–anything that doesn’t actually resemble real French Toast is a perfected version to me!! ;)

    atxvegn
    Thanks so much!

    Johanna,
    Thanks for the clarification–I didn’t know the difference between the cold and warm. Have to say I prefer the bread pudding style (baked, warm) to the “summer pudding,” which sounds a little too much like my memories of soggy French Toast!

    harmonia,
    Thanks so much, and thanks for visiting!

    Lucy,
    Thanks, darls ;). This made a wonderful breakfast–can’t imagine you NOT enjoying breakfast! I could go on and on about the first meal of the day. . . so many great choices!

    Robin,
    Thanks for stopping by, and glad you like the recipe! Looking forward to the roundup (after all, it’s more breakfast!) :)

    Alice,
    Thanks so much, And yep, that margarine is what did me in, I think.

    Lisa,
    We’ve got leftovers. . . if only I could figure out how to get it to London asap! :)

    happyherbivore,
    Wow, that’s high praise coming from you, as your recipes are always fantastic (waiting eagerly for those chocolate chip cookies. . . ) :)

    Karen,
    Well, you’ve brought out the Fanny Brice in me! Those pup alarms can be pretty reliable, though, can’t they? ;)

  14. Courtney says:

    Hmmmm….I don’t like french toast either, for reasons unknown to me (I really don’t know why I don’t like it!). Maybe it is time I give it another chance?! Your recipe sounds and looks like a winner!

    Courtney

  15. Wow, what you wrote on my blog was so sweet. Thank you!

    I KNOW that French Toast is delicious, because my family makes a similar dish– divine!!!

  16. yum, i might do this for a fourth of july brunch with the inlaws.

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you – my brother who will only eat spelt is always making the same pancake type breakfast and although it’s decent, it gets really tired after a while. I have to make this for two reasons – to show him life isn’t just about pancakes and to also give him an alternative when we come for brunch – you saved me.

  18. I also have a serious aversion to French Toast- gross, really. Your breakfast on the other hand looks divine, and bright and cheery, too.

  19. The whole time I read your post I was smiling, and my smile just got bigger and happier the more I read… Weekend breakfasts are the best!! I cannot wait for Sunday now – because I’m absolutely going to fix your gorgeous French toast recipe! I completely sympathize with your French toast hesitation – when I was a kid my mother used to bake Syrup-with-a-little-toast-under-there-somewhere! :-p It took getting my own kitchen to discover the wonders of whole grain, baked French toast… :-)
    You truly heightened French toast to an art form! Bravo!

  20. I liked the first start to your day better, although things certainly picked up at breakfast time! My first thought was wow, too :)

  21. holy amazingness! that is surely what my old loaves of rye are waiting to be used for!

  22. That looks heavenly, Ricki.

  23. Courtney,
    Nice to meet anoher F.T. naysayer! But this is more like a bread pudding than French Toast, so it may be worth a try.

    CCV,
    Thanks so much. Would love to hear what your family does with it! :)

    maybellesmom,
    This might work with the bread, raspberries and blueberries–red, white and blue! :)

    Giz,
    Thanks for commenting, and glad this works for your brother! Most of my recipes use spelt (no wheat at all), so there may be more for him to enjoy in the index! :)

    shellyfish,
    I think you may have nailed why I like this one better, too–it’s colorful. Regular French toast can be so bland!

    Astra Libris,
    Sounds like your childhood FT was pretty much the same as mine. Luckily, having one’s own place does help to get over it! ;)

    Holler,
    I have to admit that dogs make getting up fun no matter what, but I would have preferred the quieter, calmer awakening! ;)

    a-k,
    I’ve never tried this with rye–let me know how it turns out if you do!

    Sally,
    Thanks! I’m sure a GF version could be accomplished with the right bread. . .

  24. Oh my gosh, that looks simply divine!

  25. Oh my gosh, that looks simply divine!

  26. Oh my gosh, that looks simply divine!

  27. This looks fabulous. And just when I was starting to think my soufflé dish was taking up valuable space. I think I’ll take your suggestion and serve this at a brunch we’re having in June.

  28. This looks soooooo yummy! I’m going to make it for breakfast tomorrow. I love your blog! :)

  29. okay. you are going to think I am an idiot but this is too funny.
    So I made your summer berry souffle last night for dinner and I was following your directions to a T! So when said after blending the oats “add the rest of the ingredients except the berries,” I did. Including the bread. It wasnt until after that I realized you did not infact mean to blend the bread in the blender with everything else…
    But I continued on and baked it anyway and IT WAS AWESOME!
    It was so creamy and delicious. Next time I make it, Im going to blend the bread…

  30. So Im totally making this again…right now….for breakfast.

  31. So I made a post on this recipe! I gave you a trackback and I dont really understand how they work, so Im not sure where it is. Just in case I said that the original recipe could be found at rickiheller.com. If you want me to change/add anything please let me know! :)

  32. Wow! I actually love french toast but haven’t had any in YEARS! This is a great revision of an old recipe. Love the berries. PS – You are a very funny lady!

  33. Heather says:

    Woo hoo… cloudberry! I’m a Newfoundlander so I had to comment about the shout out to this wonderful flavour. We actually call them “bakeapples” too :)

    Great looking souffle too!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Key Lime Parfait from Diannes Dishes, Slow Cooker Apricot Preserves from Diary of a Feeder, French Toast Souffle with Summer Berries from Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Lemon Raspberry Cucpakes from Dine and Dish, Mini Pear Loaves from eat [...]

  2. [...] Or, if you’re like me, you’ll bake this up for no special reason and just enjoy it yourself!  For the original blog post and recipe, check here. [...]

  3. […] original version of this recipe is from Ricki Heller, but I tweaked it and made it my own – just like I’d encourage you to do with anything […]

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