I read food magazines and cookbooks the way other people read novels.  Some people get immersed in the mystery or the science or the other-world. I’m fantasizing an intimate dinner party with Meryl Streep with hand-made pasta…

My mom would talk about reading a recipe and tasting the ingredients in her mind as she read them – adding this, substituting that – and pretty much reworking the recipe as she read.

It’s genetic. I do the exact same thing. It’s why it’s difficult for me to follow a recipe – and also difficult to write them. I can tell you what I did today, but it’s more than probable that I’ll do it differently next time.

It’s one of many reasons why I’m not a famous cookbook author or food blogger. My skill lies in doing it – not explaining how I did it.

Once upon a time, working in commercial kitchens, it was easy to replicate the same dish over and over. The same ingredients were always there, along with the same pots, pans, utensils… It’s almost robotic. And it was the expectation. Doing menu and recipe development was merely playing food scientist – mixing ingredients following prescribed techniques. It was often knowing what you wanted the end-product to be and working backwards to achieve it. I found all of that to be very easy – I could be very precise in what I did, how I did it, how long it took step one, step two…

But cooking at home is not cooking in a commercial kitchen. I don’t always have the same ingredients or the same utensil in front of me, and I definitely don’t have the luxury of playing with someone elses food budget.

On many levels it is more difficult to be a home cook than a commercial cook – and while I have worked with a couple of real [expletive deleted] chefs in my life, I don’t think anything would compare to a screaming toddler or two.

Which, in a way, is seguing right into where I was starting with all of this…

I received my latest copy of Fine Cooking magazine and found a great article – Make Ahead Breakfasts for a Crowd – written by my dear friend Debbie Koenig! Debbie is pretty much the reason I started food blogging in the first place, after talking food all during Thanksgiving dinner many moons ago, so it’s always a special thrill to see her byline in newspapers and magazines.

One of the dishes she created was a baked apricot french toast. Back in my Lake Tahoe days, we used to make what we called “Tahoe Brunch.” It was a savory baked french toast that would definitely satisfy a hungover crowd. Totally different than what Debbie created, and totally different than what I made, today, but you get a glimpse of how my mind works… Baked French Toast is the concept that links everything together. It doesn’t matter that the actual ingredients are totally different – it’s the concept that matters.

So after reading the article and recipes, I brought home a loaf of walnut raisin bread knowing that some would go for dinner and some for a great baked french toast today.



I went with Debbie’s concept and made it sweet. I started with a layer of sliced bread and spread some mascarpone cheese and lingonberry preserves over the top. I then added another two layers of bread, cut to fit an 8×8 baking dish.

I mixed a cup of heavy cream with 4 eggs, a pinch of salt, a tbsp of vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar. I slowly poured it all over, covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the ‘fridge overnight.

This morning I covered it in foil and baked it at 350° for about 45 minutes. I didn’t remove the foil as I didn’t want this one to get too crispy on top. The crust of this particular bread is chewy even after soaking in milk overnight.

Hot out of the oven with maple syrup on top. Oh yum.

I love the idea of a crunchy corn flake topping and the apricot nectar in the custard is brilliant, so maybe we can do this for Christmas morning to go along with Uncle Ross’ pancakes! I think I can follow her recipe pretty much exactly as written. At least once.