Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free French Toast Souffle with Summer Berries

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?

Now, as much as I love pancakes, I’d already dealt with those on this blog. Time for a new challenge.  The HH suggested French toast. But why, oh why did he have to pick 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 wait! 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 juice 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 coconut 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.

[The original version of this recipe appeared in my first 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 the top or visit the cookbook page.]

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]

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  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.


  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). 😉

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

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

    Thanks so much!

    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!

    Thanks so much, and thanks for visiting!

    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!

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

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

    We’ve got leftovers. . . if only I could figure out how to get it to London asap! 🙂

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

    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!


  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.

    Thanks so much. Would love to hear what your family does with it! 🙂

    This might work with the bread, raspberries and blueberries–red, white and blue! 🙂

    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! 🙂

    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! 😉

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

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

    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 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. 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!

  34. Aimee B. says

    Can this be put together the night before and baked in the morning? It looks fabulous! 🙂

  35. This was such a lovely treat! I didn’t have the liqueur so I just omitted it. I used a mix of frozen raspberries and blueberries. This is perfect for breakfast or dessert. Most definitely a keeper. Thank you for the beautiful recipe. 🙂


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