the original berry and pecan french toast

Back when I made eggnog french toast, I included a mention of its variation -- berry and pecan french toast. But really, since I make the version with nuts and berries much more often, it really deserves to be called the original version and the eggnog version is its holiday cousin. Besides, if the version a la nuts and berries is the original, I have a good excuse to post the yummy pictures of our Sunday brunch.

the original berry and pecan french toast
1 french baguette or 3/4 loaf Italian loaf, stale or dried
eggs (7-8 eggs for a 9x13 pan, more if you're using more bread)
approx. 2 C milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 C fresh or frozen berries -- blueberries*, raspberries, and/or blackberries
a couple handfuls of pecan pieces
unsalted butter
maple syrup

*as a variation on this original version -- use 2C blueberries, and flavour with 1 tsp nutmeg in place of the cinnamon

Butter pan well (trust me, whoever is washing the dishes will thank you). Cut bread in large cubes -- actually a variation of sizes works best so you can fill all nooks and crannies. Let bread dry out for a few hours if it's not already stale. In a bowl, whisk eggs well and add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, as you would for a normal "egg dip" for french toast. Pour over bread, press down with the palms of your hands, and let soak overnight.

In the morning, sprinkle 2 cups of berries and pecan pieces over the egg/bread mixture (poking some berries into pockets in the bread...mmm.)

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover loosely with tinfoil for part of the time. Although, the crusty golden bits on the top are the best part (in my opinion), so don't keep the foil on for long.

To make berry syrup, warm some regular maple syrup and a handful of berries (the remaining 1/2 C) in a saucepan on the stove. Crush the berries once they are warm. Serve over golden french toast with a dollop of whipped cream.

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